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Summer Boredom: Possible Causes & Responses

School’s out.

The kids are free to do (mostly) as they please.

It’s summertime, so . . . let’s talk about summer boredom!

 

As I've listened to my kids make the dreaded boredom claim, I've made a few observations. Considered these possible causes and responses to summer boredom.

 

As a homeschool mom, I’m confronted with “bored kids” all year. My children are not constrained on a daily basis by class schedules, busses and bells. Therefore, they have plenty of “free” time to fill regularly. Thankfully, they are creative, inventive and occasionally industrious. Still, they like to come find me, deep in the midst of cooking, cleaning or planning, and morosely claim, “I’m bored.”

And I’m as guilty as anyone of responding with little compassion . . .

“Only boring people get bored.”

“Don’t be lazy. You have a good brain; you can figure out something to do.”

“Enjoy your freedom. Keep complaining and I’ll find you a job!”

As you can imagine, or have perhaps experienced yourself, these comments don’t go very far toward solving the problem.

What exactly is the problem?

I’ve seen the articles that say kids aren’t bored, they’re lazy. I understand the thinking behind that premise (the kids just don’t want to put any effort into finding something productive to do), but I’m not convinced it’s the whole story. Over time, as I’ve listened to my kids make the dreaded claim of boredom, I’ve started to make a few observations. Perhaps recognize what they’re actually expressing but don’t have the words to say.

2 Possible Causes of Summer Boredom

Option 1: “I’m not content” – We all struggle with this, right? Plenty of choices in any given context, but we’d rather pine for an option (known or unknown) that we don’t have.

Option 2: “I don’t have a purpose” – Lack of direction or the absence of a goal can leave anyone feeling listless.

. . .

Now what?

Well, I do not claim to have summer boredom all figured out. I can’t offer you a complete answer or a fail-proof formula. But I would encourage you to stop and consider your child’s heart next time he says, “I’m bored.”

 

When our kids express discontentment, we have an opportunity for a life-impacting conversation. Keep in mind that this will be the beginning of an ongoing conversation . . . and it’s not one that’s meant to condemn. Discontentment affects parents too, so identify with the challenge and make a plan for working together toward gratitude and contentment.

 

Helping our kids identify purpose requires a little more thought. Knowing how to spend unscheduled time is a learned skill that develops over time. And some kids are more adept at this than others. Free play time is a treat for a child who’s spent a good portion of time fulfilling expectations such as school or chores. Unlimited free time can become a burden they’re not sure how to handle. Sometimes they need our help narrowing down the options to make a plan.

 

Unlimited free time can become a burden kids aren't sure how to handle. Sometimes they need our help narrowing down the options to make a plan.

 

Please know that I am not advocating for on-the-go, down to the hour activities and entertainment. The tendency to sign kids up for every available class or activity to keep them from becoming bored is an over-correction of the problem. It robs them of opportunities to exercise creative thinking and learn time management skills.

 

Clearly, there is no formula guaranteed to ward of the summer boredom blues. No one response, technique, or what-to-do-all-day list will answer every child’s need. Our first job is taking time to identify what’s behind the boredom claim. Then we can decide what response will be most helpful to our kids’ growth.

 

What do you think? Could one of these possibilities be the cause of your kids’ boredom?

 

Shared at: Coffee & Conversation, Grace & Truth, Thoughtful Thursday,

Comments

  1. Abi- I love the way you turned this into a conversation that reaches deeper and can then be a teachable moment!
    Visiting from Arabah’s #Grace&Truth

    • Appreciate you visiting, Julie. It can be so easy to brush their complaint off as an excuse. Helping them think about what’s going on with their heart prepares them to think the problem through themselves eventually.

  2. Thank you for your thoughts on this topic! Since I’ve read an article about how ‘boredom’ can stimulate creativity in a child, I see it less as a problem than I used to do. But it’s definitely a good move to help the child find purpose. My children love my suggestion to help in the kitchen, or bake something, when they are bored. And with one of my boys I have started piano lessons to help him find a hobby that has more value than playing games on the iPad (which I often say ‘No’ to, and then he sighs ‘I’m booored…’). I love your suggestion about an ongoing conversation about discontentment.

    • I absolutely agree that “boredom” can foster creativity, Anne. Remembering that makes me wait a bit before really jumping in to help them navigate. Sometimes thy just need to know we’re not going to fix it for them, that we believe they can figure out that taping each other together or spinning themselves silly on the swings is quite fun! Love the baking and piano ideas – both great creative purposes.

  3. Today was the final day of school for my daughters, so the idea of summer is still bright and shiny. I imagine the “I’m bored” comments won’t be far in the future, though, so thanks for the thought-provoking probe. It makes sense that a lack of contentment/purpose would cause kids to feel adrift. (I feel that way, too, sometimes!) Wise ideas!

    • Hope you have a fantastic summer with your girls, Robin. The boredom seems to run in cycles . . . the kids do really well for a while, then all of a sudden it hits. Slowing down enough to consider what’s going on isn’t my first inclination, but it does make a difference in how I respond – and in turn how they do!

Your turn! I'd love to hear your thoughts or questions.