Boredom is the kids' problem, not yours

EMMA walks into the kitchen with her head down and whines, "I'm bored." She then looks up at you expectantly. You are going to be the solution to her problem

And that's the point. It's her problem, not yours. If you believe that it's your job to come up with a solution, you will definitely go nuts.

You'll suggest a range of exciting and interesting options and offer to set out art supplies, arrange play dates, plan outings and suggest sleepovers. All of which are terrific summer activities for kids but not of any interest to the whining youngster. No matter what you say she will whine, "No, I don't want to do that."

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The whining continues, "I don't feel like playing with Chandra, going to the aquarium means too much walking." Now you are hooked into trying to come up with the perfect solution. Meanwhile, Emma is having a great time getting your undivided attention.

What happens if you decide that her boredom is her problem? She walks into the kitchen with her head down and whines, "I'm bored." You glance up and respond, "Oh, and what do you plan to do about that? If you come up with a plan and need help, let me know and I will be happy to assist you."

The more scheduled her school year was, the more likely it is that she will have problems with free time. But suddenly booking up every spare minute is not the answer.

As a matter of fact, not only is down time a good plan during the summer, it's also a good idea during the school year. Unscheduled down time is important for a number of reasons.

It gives her a chance to simply rest with no expectations of activity. She can sit under a tree and let her mind flow. She will daydream. She might imagine all sorts of wonderful ideas and even start planning her future. Her daydreams can lead to thinking about what she wants to be when she grows up. Or she may simply dream about what she wants to have happen in the next school year. So many of our kids spend so much time on a continual merry-go-round they never have time to consider, to dream or to plan.

Down time also teaches her to learn how to spend her time when there is no plan in place. She will learn what she likes to do rather than what class or activity is next on the agenda.

Creativity comes more often from free time than in the middle of activity. She may come up with a wonderful idea for her play.

Your role is to be supportive once she makes a decision. What if she and her brother decide to take out all their Lego, small cars and figures and create a town? You can provide some space and let them continue the play over a number of days. They may decide to set up a camp in the backyard. Make it a project that doesn't need picking up every night.

It's a good idea to have a mix of down time and active time. Sit down each weekend and do some planning. What would she like to do next week? Are there any places she's been keen to visit? If possible, try to spend some special time with each of your kids. That can include having them learn how to do some cooking with you or fold laundry. It can also include a one-on-one outing to a concert, for a shopping trip or out to lunch.

Make books available for reading, have art supplies at the ready, be prepared to turn lunch into a picnic in the backyard.

Boredom can be a gift and it's her problem. So relax, and let her learn whatever her boredom will teach her.

Kathy Lynn is a professional speaker and author of Who's In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I'd Ever Have to Leave Home. If you want to read more, sign up for her informational newsletter at parentingtoday.ca.

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