The Gift of Childhood Boredom (Summer Edition)

A couple Christmases ago, I wrote about the pressure to entertain our kids vs. giving them the “gift” of boredom. Now, as summer approaches and pandemic restrictions wane, I feel that tug again. Ahead are all the possibilities for camps, summer school, and activities. Unlike summer 2020, we have the potential to make ourselves, and our kids, busy again. It’s a very tempting option.

As we make the transition to this particular summer, I’m reflecting on what we learned during the pandemic. Complete isolation was obviously far too extreme for our mental, emotional, and physical health. But, many of us also felt relief from being “over-busy.” For the first time (maybe ever) we had time together that was uninterrupted, unplanned, and gave way to creativity, family time, and rest. It was such a gift.

Just as the transition from school structure into the pandemic was (really!) hard, the transition between school and summer freedom can be difficult as well. But, just because a transition is hard, it doesn’t mean there aren’t gifts to be found. Rather than just trying to make our summer situation look like the old routine we were comfortable with, we can look for the unique blessings that can be found in those long, unstructured days.

In the coming weeks, as we make choices between unstructured time and scheduled activities, my kids will definitely have some busyness. But, I’m also going to work really hard to remember that they need to experience boredom, unstructured play, and rest. Our job as parents, despite any pressure we may feel, is not to entertain our children. We are to love them and keep them fed, safe, and clothed. And then? Let their precious little minds have space to think without input, create without direction, and feel without oversight. We need to let them learn now what it means to manage their experience, draw resources from their surroundings, and cope with a life that is not always exciting, or entertaining. Because, let’s be real, it’s not.

So, when your kids get bored this summer, please know you aren’t neglecting them. You are loving them. You are gifting them with the opportunity for independence, self-reliance, and creativity. You, “boring parent”, are creating beautiful functional adults.

PS – Last thing, if they tell you they are “bored”, remember “bored rhymes with chores.” This phrase is a great reminder that they would much rather come up with their own way to fill the time than to allow their meanie-pants parents to come up with the solution. Kids who are good at filling their own time tend to be kids who have had practice filling their own time. Let’s give them that chance. Happy summer planning (or not!) everyone!

Photo by Elena Rabkina on Unsplash, used with permission

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