Rather than getting annoyed when your children say they are bored — or feeling guilty that you are not providing them with activities — new research suggests that parents should look at what may be the real problem.
Kids who complain of boredom aren’t necessarily lazy or slacking off, but are actually in a tense, negative state, says a 2012 study in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. Frustrated and struggling to engage, they often find themselves unable to focus their attention or get started on satisfying activities.
The overwhelming majority of kids turn to video games when they can’t focus, but overstimulation is the last thing they need. Instead, parents should talk to their kids to determine if anything is troubling them and encourage them to figure out a plan of action.
But for those times when your child really does need to fill their time, planning ahead is key.
Planning in advance can help kids get through the mental paralysis that comes with boredom. Dr. Laura Markham recommends helping a child make a “Boredom Buster Jar,” a bottle of paper slips with the child’s ideas for things to do. Such a tool can also help guide nannies or sitters who need ideas.
Suggesting a little drudgery can spur a child’s imagination, too. Try saying, “I could use a little help cleaning the closet,” Dr. Markham says.
Time to draw up a few lists . . .