5 Tips to Shift from Boredom to Self-Reliance

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By Sushi Frausto, LMFT

Boredom is a natural, common, and unavoidable feeling.  Throughout life, we will all be faced with moments of complete and utter boredom. Children may experience boredom as both an emotional and physical sensation that can feel overwhelming.  They often turn to screens, devices, or other distractions to alleviate this feeling. 

These distractions do not allow children to fully experience boredom – or to develop the ability to be present and entertain themselves.  If kids depend on outside devices or people to keep their minds engaged, they lose the opportunity for self-discovery that could arise.  

Let’s face it, today’s children – and most adults – are not used to having this much “down time.”  Your children will need help conquering their boredom.  

Help your children learn to respond to boredom with engaging, non-screen activities:

  1. Have your children make a list of fun at-home activities.  What sounds fun to each of your children?  Drawing?  Building with legos?  Baking?  Making slime?  Journaling?  Playing the keyboard?  Jumping on the trampoline?  Playing with the dog? Tie-dying a t-shirt?  Reading a book?  Building a fort out of pillows and blankets?  Setting up a scavenger hunt for the family?  Creating a show to be performed for the parents?   They should create a “fun list” they can refer to when boredom strikes – and you can order some supplies to have on hand if needed.  If screens seem to be their only interest, then this list is even more important.  It’s the perfect time to discover some new hobbies!
  2. Make sure your children know their parameters.  Let them know what they’re allowed to do.  Identify spaces where certain activities are permissible.  Make sure they know what materials they can use without asking.
  3. Inform your children when they can expect to be bored.  If you know every Wednesday afternoon at 1 pm you have a conference call, tell your kids.  Say something like, “You will have to entertain yourself; please do not interrupt my call.”  Remind them to use their list of activity options.  Don’t give in!  If they come to you complaining anyway, remind them to follow the plan.  Praise them for doing an activity autonomously!
  4. Practice as a family.  Schedule a time when all members of the family must entertain themselves.  This should be a time with no video games or devices.  Even if it’s only 20 to 30 minutes, it will help your children build self-reliance.
  5. Be patient.  Like all skills, this one will take time.  It might be tough on your children at first. They may complain and resist.  But it will get easier!

Let’s face it, having to provide your children with continuous activities to keep them occupied can be exhausting.  It’s also not allowing them a growth opportunity.   Remind yourself that you are not being a bad parent.  You’re helping your children build self-reliance and non-screen hobbies – which will benefit them for the rest of their lives.