If you walk through a grocery store, you’ll probably see a kid playing on his phone, trailing behind his mom, unaware of his surroundings. At a restaurant, you may notice children watching movies on an iPad as they wait for dinner.
Have you noticed that your own smartphone is full of games for the kids “just in case” they have downtime and need to be entertained? I get this. I also hand off my phone when my kids are antsy and I’m feeling busy.
But right now it feels like we are over-using our technology to fill all open time, as if boredom is the worst thing that can happen. Even a quick car ride necessitates a movie rather than an opportunity to stare out the window.
Our kids are learning, even being encouraged, to fill up space with shows and games, and they are missing out on essential downtime.
Occasional boredom is actually a great thing. It is our opportunity to relax and reflect on our lives; it is when our imagination takes over. Boredom sparks curiosity and creativity.
Why don’t we let our kids be bored? Probably because we are uncomfortable being bored. Even in the midst of a meaningful conversation, we feel compelled to check our phone for emails or texts, always looking for something bigger and better to hold our attention. It’s an epidemic, a taught inattentiveness that keeps us plugged in instead of connected to ourselves or each other.
Too much boredom can be as mind-numbing as too much technology. We need to find a balance.
Our children don’t need to be entertained constantly by us or technology. They benefit from unstructured time to explore their inner and outer worlds. They need to practice being with themselves and finding comfort in quiet.
So the next time your children say they are bored you can say with authenticity, “Great! Now you can do whatever you want. What an opportunity!”
I know, this isn’t easy, and children may initially seem annoyed, but in the long run, it will help them tremendously. Occasional boredom offers an opportunity to daydream, process, create, revitalize and contemplate, all of which lead to personal understanding, a calm presence, and gratitude-the things that help us stay connected to each other.