By Christine Rushford, MS, LMHC
In the era of Kardashians with “momagers,” we as mothers have taken responsibility for filling our children’s every hour. Whether it be swim lessons, intensive summer reading classes, organized playdates or disorganized Pinterest projects that went awry, somewhere along the way mothers have begun to believe that their children must be productively engaged at all times. If a child is at a loss for something to do and dares to utter “I’m bored!” we are immediately on hand to resolve the boredom. Even if that means stopping what we are doing, to fill in as play mate for the disengaged youngster.
The problem with this “productivity” mindset is that it does all of the work for the child. Part of the magic of school vacation is the vast amounts of free time that summer creates. In that free time is the opportunity for our children to learn so much! When forced to plan their day, children engage their developing frontal lobe. This is the part of the brain which is responsible for initiation, problem solving, judgment, attention/concentration, emotion regulation and much more! The brain is a “use it or lose it” type organ. When children are not told how to fill their every hour throughout the summer, they have the opportunity to practice skills to enhance their growing brains.
The next time your child says the dreaded, “I’m bored!,” resist the urge to solve the problem. Instead, ask your child how he/she will solve the problem. Of course, be on hand to approve of any “plans” your child might develop or to assist in executing said plan. It is also worth mentioning that your child’s plan might fail. Step back and allow for that to happen as well. The disappointment felt is a great opportunity for your child to utilize his/her emotional regulation!
I encourage you to pull out your calendars and see which planned activities can be altered to a free day of growing your child’s brain-those days will be your most productive and worthwhile of the summer!