Parents, Don’t Sweat the Summer!

It’s baaack!!!  The end of the school year is approaching when children whoop for joy as they anticipate weeks of fun, fun, fun.  Right!?  We parents know what it really means – long days and evenings filled with sweaty, BORED kids.

How can we help our kids stay occupied this summer?  An enlightened mom I know with four children ranging from high school age to kindergarten is thinking of writing ideas on index cards and having them available for the kids to use as a resource when they are bored.  This idea, along with some field trips she has scheduled, may be the ticket for some fun this summer.  I tried allowing only educational TV last summer and much to my surprise, the kids loved it!  Okay, those are good ideas, but is anybody else out there tired of being the family camp counselor?  Do our children really need us to solve their summer boredom problems?  I’m starting to think not.

 

The Positives of “Boredom”

I discovered one of the hottest tips ever for solving the summer doldrums.  A tip so new, so innovative that it may be quite shocking to some!  When your kids whine, “I’m bored”, respond with, “Great, be bored for a while.  It’s good for you.”

What?  How could this work?  Won’t all that boredom turn our kids into marshmallow-brained zombies?  No,  because I am not talking about hours of idle time or laziness, but simply trying the art of relaxing, of just “being” rather than “doing.”  When you allow your children (and yourself) to be bored, even if it is just for a few minutes a day (watching TV does not count), it takes an enormous amount of pressure off them and you to be performing and doing something every second.  Sometimes kids’ minds, just like their bodies, need an occasional break from stimulation.  “When you allow your mind to take a break, it comes back stronger, sharper, more focused and creative.”*

 

A New Perspective

Instead of viewing “just doing nothing” as a waste of time, you can reframe it into something positive and good for your children. Nowadays, youngsters are not allowed their childhoods; they are pressured and rushed to perfect skills, achieve,  strive endlessly for some goal which will further their development.  However, what children may really need is many opportunities and much time for free, unstructured play in order for them to grow and develop in a healthy and balanced way.

So why are parents reluctant to give their children this free time? Part of the answer may be that adults are often uncomfortable with being alone, quiet and reflective. If we see our child sitting quietly, we may encourage her to play, to find someone to do something with, to be productive.  If a child likes to go for walks by himself, he is prodded to go with a friend so he has company and someone to talk with.  Quiet and solitary contemplation is not encouraged or valued in our society.  And yet, for children to grow in inner discipline and to get to know and like themselves, they need time to be alone and be still.

With this new perspective in mind, it may be possible for parents to take a more relaxed view of summer vacation, and to feel comfortable in just letting their children be.  It can take the pressure off us to know that we do not always have to find entertainment for our children, and that, in fact, we will actually be helping them by encouraging them to be alone, quiet and still for periods of time.  Balanced with some planned family activities, enjoying a little boredom may make this the best summer ever!

By Claire Gawinowicz, Certified Parenting Educator

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For more information about healthy parenting, check out the following books. Purchasing books from our website through Amazon.com supports the work we do to help parents do the best job they can to raise their children.

 

Liberated Parents, Liberated Children by Faber and MazlishBlessings of a Skinned Knee by Wendy MogelThe Whole Brain Child by Dan SiegelParenting by Heart by Ron Taffel

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