You may have often heard your child say, ‘I am feeling bored.’
Well, it is okay for a child to feel bored and here is why. Boredom acts as the first stage of creativity. It fosters thinking, develops self-esteem and stimulates creative juices. It plays an important role in developing grit and resilience, and encourages children to engage in free, unstructured play which is healthy for skill development.
Interestingly, when it comes to younger children, it also develops problem-solving skills as being bored pushes them to come up with solutions to overcome it. A state of boredom allows children to spend time with themselves increasing their level of self-awareness. Children may also engage in activities that they usually do not prefer to engage in.
In order to help children embrace boredom, below are a few ideas to redirect them to start and then gradually fade away.
- Create a chart which highlights all the activities that the child likes to engage in. It acts as a visual reminder and they can choose an activity from the chart to engage in whenever bored.
- Encourage them to engage in fun mindfulness-based activities by throwing a challenge. For example scavenger hunt, finding resources that activate the five senses, going out for a walk and finding leaves of different shapes, finding objects of rainbow colours in a room or outdoors etc.
Additionally, sometimes it is okay for parents to abstain from rushing in to rescue their children from boredom and let them be in that situation for them to come up with their own original ideas. You never know how they may surprise you. The next time your child says, I’m bored,’ respond with, ‘That is great! I can’t wait to see what you’ll do!’
Boredom may be having something of a moment with parenting experts, psychologists and neuroscientists expressing deep interest in the ‘psychology of boredom’. Many rightfully feel that the overstimulated modern child has been deprived of this sense while others argue that nomophobia (fear of being detached from phone connectivity) could be a major contributor to the lack of creativity and imagination that stems from being bored.
In adolescents, being bored could indicate much more than an over or under stimulated mind. It could often suggest a search for what they actually feel.
A regular 15-year-old who laments about being bored could mean ‘I am angry that I have no control over my life, I am hating the existential condition of being 15 and I know there is nothing I can do about it.’ It is here that you as a parent could step in to provide support at a deeper level through meaningful communication. The key components of boredom according to John Eastwood, Associate Professor at York University, Toronto, are the desire to engage, coupled with failure to engage and an awareness of that failure.
Bored? It may just be something else!
Finding out the root cause of our boredom helps us lean into our inner worlds and make healthy constructive choices. It is easy to label something as boring, and yes, while that may be how one experiences an event, leaving it at that doesn’t help us comprehend what really needs to change. Boredom can be looked at as data. ‘It arises when we’re doing things that don’t seem engaging or satisfactory, and it pushes us to want to do something else,’ said Andreas Elpidorou, a philosopher who studies emotions and consciousness at the University of Louisville.
Why does it happen?
It happened if the task we are doing is either too easy or too hard. When the task is too easy, our brain does not dig deep into its resources to solve or address what is going on. While playing Ludo may be easy, it is not just the nature of the task but the context of what accompanies it.
Contrast that with an adolescent made to solve a ten-piece puzzle multiple times. Easy tasks can be tweaked. Hard tasks can sometimes cause feelings of overwhelm or confusion and are masked by an experience of being bored.
How many of us, when we don’t know what to do with ourselves, scroll endlessly on our phone? Do we scroll because we are bored or does scrolling cause boredom? The role of watching short reels may prevent us from being ‘bored’, however, what is also being prevented is the development of our imagination and creativity or facing a fear/ task that is important and urgent. While it may be soothing at first, this numbing experience deadens our relationship with emotions.
The next time you use those words, remember to pause and substitute them for an emotion or a need that is yet to be met. ‘I am bored’ equals ‘I am feeling something that isn’t felt or expressed’.