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Why Boredom Is Good For Your Kids

According to an expert, it's good parenting.

As school holidays continue for the millionth week, one of the most dreaded sentences for a parent can become commonplace. You know the one, often said in an unofficial universally trademarked whine: “Mum, I’m bored.”

As a part-time employee who is lucky enough (or maybe not) to still be on holidays but who also works as a writer from home on the other two days, I've been dreading the last few weeks of school holidays.

Mostly because I was anticipating hearing this sentence from both of my two daughters as I tried to get my writing done.

Luckily, I did not hear it uttered, not once. In fact, as I spent an entire week and a half from 9am to 4pm essentially confined in my home office working, my two daughters played (nicely) together about 95 percent of the time.

Shona with her two daughters. Image: Supplied

They didn’t turn on the television even though I would have totally been okay with it. There were no screens of any description in use, again, their decision.

Instead they mostly played in harmonious unison for one and a half weeks as I worked upstairs. So, yes, lucky is indeed the correct term.

With my office door open, I could hear their voices taking on the roles of mums and dads, Bluey and Bingo, superheros and villains, Harry Potter and Hermoine. They used whatever toys happened to be around them -- from Lego, Barbies, even the dreaded LOLs. Sometimes there were no toys at all, just themselves.

“Pretend this one is an evil witch casting a spell.”

“Pretend this one is a teacher and you are a student.”

“Pretend this one is flying and you can’t catch her.”

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Imagination and make-believe were the key ingredients in fulfilling their days and to be honest, them playing was one of the cutest things I’ve ever heard. But despite being proud of their resourcefulness and ability to make their own fun, I still felt guilty.

I felt guilty for working when I ‘should’ be taking them out and doing school holiday activities. I felt guilty when I saw friends on social media taking their kids to the zoo or the water park and mine were sometimes still in their PJs playing with the same toys as yesterday.

I felt guilty that I wasn’t with them spending quality time and doing ‘fun family’ things together. I felt guilty that it was just two young kids making do by themselves. Oh and just to clarify, I was still present and would provide them with the essentials like food and water.

Shona's two daughters. Image: Supplied

But then, nearly as sweet as the sound of their little voices playing together, was the sound of a psychologist upon my radio station -- and after further investigation, a view shared among many clinical psychologists -- telling me that my parenting was actually okay. In fact, it was more than okay, it was good!

And that sweet (and wise) words were these:

“Children need to sit in the nothingness of boredom in order to arrive at an understanding of who they are”.

This insight by Clinical Psychologist and author, Dr Vanessa Lapointe, is also shared by many other experts, including Clinical Psychologist, Dr Judith Locke.

“Boredom teaches children important skills in dealing with uncomfortable feelings and develop an ability to refocus themselves and find something to do," she told 10 daily.

Every time you solve their boredom, you make them more reliant on you to make them feel okay. It’s much better that they learn independence and how to amuse themselves using their imagination and creativity.

Not only are creativity and imagination ignited by not having a parent or adult ‘entertain them’ but problem-solving skills, perseverance, exploration, concentration and mindfulness can also be improved by this sort of ‘boredom' too.

And while I am definitely not an expert in child psychology or development myself, as a parent and general observer of the world, these qualities of imagination, creativity and independence were clearly visible within my own two girls as they took on their various roles and negotiated the next activity on their schedule.

So while I sit typing away, I now know that although my innate motherly guilt might see my working as parental neglect, 'boredom' is really beneficial.

So I am just helping them develop essential life skills, which of course, was the plan the entire time.

Featured image: Supplied