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, I feel that tug again. Ahead are all the possibilities for camps, summer school, and activities. And, unlike our last two summers that had Covid restrictions, we have the potential to make ourselves, and our kids, very busy again. It’s a tempting option.

As we make this transition, I’ve found myself grasping at what I promised to learn 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.

The upcoming change in routine can be difficult for us and our kids. But, just because a transition is hard, it doesn’t mean there aren’t gifts to be found. Some routine and expectation is helpful but we can also look for the unique blessings that can be found in those long, unstructured days.

For us, the calendar definitely shows that my kids will have some busyness. But, I’m also going to work really hard to remember that they need to experience boredom, unstructured play, and rest. And try to remember that time does not have to equal pressure on me. Our job as parents is not to continually 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 own experience, draw resources from their surroundings, and cope with a life that is not always exciting, or entertaining. Because real life is not.

So, when your kids complain that they are 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 – I know this won’t work for everyone but we have a saying, “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 allow their 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.

PPS – Saw this acrostic at a friend’s house a few weeks ago and thought it was creative and helpful for the days ahead:

  • B: Been creative?
  • O: Outside play?
  • R: Read a book?
  • E: Exercised 20 minutes?
  • D: Done something helpful?

Happy summer everyone!

Photo by Elena Rabkina on Unsplash, used with permission

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