by Deborah Serani, Psy.D., author of Sometimes When I’m Bored
Boredom is generally defined as dissatisfaction, unhappiness, restlessness, and other negative feelings, and children often fight to escape its grip. The solution, however, is for parents and caregivers to teach children how to better define boredom. How to mindfully define it.
You see, boredom is a signal that a child needs more—more excitement, more learning, more wonder. So, when boredom hits, help children see it as an opportunity for discovery and creativity to encourage better coping. These five tips can help.
1. Embrace Boredom
Encourage children to understand that feeling bored is a typical and healthy experience, and note that boredom is an opportunity for discovery. Help children view boredom as a signal to become curious about their unique needs, desires, and interests.
2. Spur Wonder
Support creativity and imagination in children. Help them find wonder and curiosity with statements like “Think about what you want to do” or “How can you use your imagination to create some fun?”
3. Be Patient
Many children are used to adults scheduling their time, so expect the shift from boredom to self-started decision-making to take some practice. Try not to solve a child’s boredom. Instead, let the moment linger and offer empathetic phrases like “I know you will find something to do” or “It’s hard when you don’t know what to do next.”
4. Model Problem-Solving Behavior
Let children see you experiencing boredom, and show them how you move from a moment of passivity to activity. Allow them to hear you express emotions like “Gee, I feel bored today,” followed by solutions such as “I think I’m going to read a book.”
5. Praise Effort
Learning how to use boredom as a starting point for deeper enjoyment is a skill set that requires trial and error and plenty of practice. So be sure to praise children for trying, for efforts that work, and also for ones that fall flat. Remind children that using time for self-reflection is a wonderful thing.
Everyone experiences boredom at times. Helping children learn to cope, and move from boredom to activity, is an important social and emotional skill.
Adapted from Sometimes When I’m Bored by Deborah Serani, Psy.D., copyright © 2022. Free Spirit Publishing, Minneapolis, MN; 800-735-7323; freespirit.com. All rights reserved.
Deborah Serani, Psy.D., is an award-winning author and psychologist in practice for 30 years. She is also a professor at Adelphi University, and her writing on the subjects of depression and trauma has been published in academic journals. Dr. Serani is a go-to expert for psychological issues. Her interviews can be found in Newsday, Psychology Today, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The Associated Press, and affiliate radio programs at CBS and NPR, among others. She is also a TEDx speaker and has worked as a technical advisor for the NBC television show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. She lives in New York City.
Deborah is the author of the Sometimes When collection.
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