Well here I am back from a big blogging break.
I’ve been practicing doing nothing in the evenings and benefited from it quite a lot. I have put my feet up, spent some time getting over feeling guilty and just recharged my batteries.
Now I felt it is timely to do a blog post on boredom!
This subject has come up a bit for me lately as the winter months start to set in and the sub-zero temperatures of Central Otago, New Zealand begin to impact our perception that we can’t get out and about. Actually despite this I think it’s one of the best times of year.
The cold, however, is not the greatest aspect of living in this beautiful place, butt is one of the things we must endure and learn to enjoy should we choose to live here. Indeed, it is the main reason many people do choose to live here – so they can ski.
I think it is just so beautiful in the winter with those very cold, calm and crispy sunny days!!
We even have glaciers at our back door!! Brrr
Rob Roy glacier – a great day walk to take the kids on.
My kids play mostly winter sports so the winter months are plagued by busyness and sport injuries – last year alone we racked up a torn ligament, a broken leg and 2 broken ribs. Along with winter coughs and colds, the sum of all this is that you can’t actually do all the things you might otherwise have done. As a result life can become a little less exciting.
The danger of all this is that kids just gravitate to their screens, whether it be a phone, ipod, computer, tablet or the TV. My 16 year old will often have a mixture of all of these at the same time. Watching a movie whilst searching up something on his computer while social media-ing on his phone…..eeek. I horrifies me what this might be doing to his rapidly developing brain cells!
I get a bit determined that this doesn’t happen. Well at least not too much. As with any parenting it is making sure that kids have balance and are able to have a variety of activities mixed with relaxation time. This is the key to children’s wellbeing.
I think that for under 14/15 years old screen time is OK for 30 minutes to an hour maximum (depending on age and stage), then it’s time to change to something else. Most over 14 year olds can manage more without huge behavioural impacts but also need clear boundaries around when it is time to turn it off.
Joint agreement and clear expectations followed up and maintained are the key here.
Please note: I advocate delaying any form of tablet or computer screen time for infants under 5 years for as long as possible. Remember what is happening in their little brains during this time – connections with caregivers is THE most important at this time – and actually always.
So what is doing “something else”?
Children need to be able to think about what that ‘something else’ might be. If we as parents fill all their time up with stuff/activities and then the only down time they have is screens, then there is no space for them to use their own creativity and their own abilities to think about how to use their time. It is crucial that children develop and use this ability.
If you always provide the activities children then learn to rely on their parents to entertain them or to decide what is happening for them rather than having to think about it themselves.
What does ‘bored’ mean for a child. What are they saying when they say “I’m bored”??
Sometimes it is actually boring and that is real and true….but not intolerable.
In my view it often means one of the following things:
“I’ve got nothing to do”
“Please make suggestions of what I can do?”
“Can I watch TV?”
“Can I go on the computer”
“Can I play on the playstation”
“I don’t know what to do”
“I’d rather not have to think so you can tell me”
“I can’t think about what to do so I need you to think for me”
When you hear this the first thing to do is check in with yourself. What does it feel like when you hear this?
Do you feel compelled to help them?
Do you feel guilty that you aren’t providing enough entertainment so therefore aren’t a good enough parent?
Do you feel annoyed or frustrated? (so let them go on screens to get out of your hair).
As parents it seems to have become quite difficult for us to hear these words. For some reason we now think that we must keep our kids occupied or we are not doing a good enough job as parents.
We need to teach kids that they are responsible for thinking about what they can do. Of course there are times when we can help them with this but we need to be careful about how often and how much help we give.
And we need to remember that there are going to be times when doing nothing is actually doing something…it’s called relaxing.
RELAXING omg!!! Relaxing is this terrible, terrible thing that can make some of us so, so anxious.
“But I can’t do nothing!” I hear this so often and I think it is very sad.
Doing nothing is definitely doing something!!
I cannot stress this enough and the sooner your children learn this the better for them, and for you. We can teach our children by modelling it!
Doing nothing is doing the following things:
- Resting your body physically so it can recover
- Recharging your energy so you have enough energy to do the things you want to be able to do
- Restoring your nervous system to a calm state so that you can think clearly
Why is it important to return your nervous system to a calm state?
This allows us to access our frontal cortex (think clearly) which is the part of the brain we need for problem solving, memory, language, impulse control, judgement, social behaviour, emotional expression and planning, and some other important things. It is basically the higher functioning part of our brain – a kind of ‘control panel’ if you like. So if you have trouble with any of these above things your central nervous system might need resting and calming to help you.
Boredom – if accepted as healthy – can help. If you don’t accept it, you just end up feeling frustrated and more anxious (not a calm nervous system!).
There is even a book called “Bored and Brilliant; How spacing out can unlock your most productive & creative self” by Manoush Zomorodi, which explains the connection between boredom and original thinking and how we can benefit from boredom to become our most productive selves.
So, go forth and practice boredom. Encourage your kids to do nothing. There will be some initial struggle and difficulty, but you will be surprised what happens if you stay firm – I promise you!