THE BLOG
07/07/2015 12:44 pm ET Updated Jul 06, 2016

Boredom As A Teaching Opportunity

Dear Parents,

You and your kids are currently in the midst of the summer wherever you may be and your kids are probably complaining about boredom every now and then. I know about this all too well. The teens and tweens tell me about this. Parents complain about not knowing how to handle it. Oh the irony. During the school year many kids wish that they had free time to worry about. I remember being a teen and also being told to clean out my closet when I complained about boredom. That suggestion didn't make me happy nor did I clean my closet. So, let's flesh out this discussion of teens and boredom.

First, let's discuss boredom among your kids. They generally start complaining about it when they feel unoccupied and/or unstimulated. I am very concerned that this generation of teens has a particularly hard time with free time given how intensely they are pushed to be involved in activities. My friends and I remember a time when we would all go outside and find things to do because parents encouraged social contact and fresh air. Those days and requests are sadly lacking. I'm concerned that kids are losing the ability to be alone or even how to utilize spare time with their friends unless there is a very specific activity already set up. I'm also concerned that much of their free time includes being at one with their social media modalities.

Now, not all boredom leads to positive outcomes. When teens are bored they can turn to drugs, alcohol and other dangerous behavior. On the other hand, boredom, if handled properly, can lead kids to become more creative, be more active, learn how to relax and develop a high level of comfort with themselves. These are all excellent life skills. My suggestions are that parents, in an effort to teach kids how to handle boredom in a positive manner encourage them to:

1. Set limits on social media use.

2. Model decompressing and winding down. Kids look to their parents as their #1 role models.

3. Make exercise equipment available to your kids. This can be purchasing a pair of running shoes or even a membership to a gym.

4. Refrain from asking them what they are doing all the time. This sends the message that all time should be spent "productively."

AND

5.Ask your kids not only what they accomplished but if they had time to relax and unwind and do something fun and soothing.

Good luck with this. We need our kids to learn to relax. We certainly do not want to raise a generation of kids fraught with anxiety when structured activities are not available. We also do not want to raise a generation of kids riddled with somatic symptoms that later lead to physical illnesses;right? Finally, we want our kids to be free, at times, from cell phones so that they can interact with their peers in an upfront and personal manner so that they can learn to read social cues and emotions accurately. These are all valuable and necessary skills.