If you are knee deep in camp brochures, trying to figure out whether to send your kids to basketball camp, archery practice, or a ballet troupe, stop what you are doing and read this first. You see, it may not be necessary to fill all of your children’s summer days with pre-planned activities. In fact, it may be detrimental to their mental health.
We know, we know. You want to avoid hearing those dreaded words, “I’m bored.” We understand what it’s like. You finally sit down for the first time all day, and a nanosecond later there is a short and sluggish figure creeping up on you, telling you she has nothing to do. Who wouldn’t want to prepare in advance for such an ambush?
The idea that parents have to , or should, provide constant entertainment for their children is misguided. We can only imagine that it popped up as an antidote to 70’s parents, who would sit on their porches drinking Tab and smoking cigarettes completely unaware of the whereabouts of their children, until the street lights came on. At dark, children would reappear, mysteriously, and miraculously unharmed. They would be fed TV dinners, or bologna sandwiches, on bread that was anything but organic, and then go to sleep blissfully unaware of the pesticides in their systems.
So, yes, perhaps we did need to take a turn from the no-car-seat days of yesteryear. But, it appears that we’ve gone too far.
Today parents are overparenting or helicopter parenting, at an alarming rate. Part of this stems from the real fear that if we let our children play outside in the driveway, a neighbor could call the cops and we could be found neglectful. However, Utah just made the decision to allow free range parenting, and other states are sure to follow. Yet, even without the added pressure of legal woes, many parents still feel an obligation to direct their children’s every move.
The problem with being the kind of parent who keeps her kids busy all the time, is that she doesn’t allow her children to experience boredom.
Why is that a bad thing?
As it turns out, kids need to feel bored in order to learn how to amuse themselves. If they never experience a lack of activity, then they won’t develop the skills needed to figure out what to do with themselves when they feel that nagging feeling.
Being bored offers children an opportunity to sit with an uncomfortable feeling and try to find a solution. This is a skill that proves useful long into adulthood.
Of course, we aren’t saying that you should never schedule anything for your child, and we aren’t saying that you can’t help them at all either. Like always, balance is key. You could, for example, sit down with your child at the beginning of summer, and help her make a list of all the things that she could do when she inevitably becomes bored. Then you can simply direct her to the list when the need arises. The important part is that you give your child the gift of mastery, by allowing her to fill her own dance card.
If you would like to talk more about ways to empower your children, contact us. We are here to help!