School's out and summer freedom is in. It sounds great, but there's a catch for us moms. Because during the school year our kids are scheduled and too often over-scheduled, our children seem unable to handle unstructured free time without resorting to the, "mom, I'm bored!" card.
This covert call to action pulls mom's guilt strings and makes her feel as if she needs to be her brood's emcee. So, even if you're busy running your home-based business or simply trying to take a much-needed nap, you may likely stand to your kids' attention and cook up something to entertain them, because that's what good moms do.
I know because I'm one of these moms. Every summer I'm guilt-ridden if I'm not orchestrating stimulating outings or dishing out big bucks for challenging summer camps. But, with three children, these camps and outings can add up to a small fortune. One alternative is to allow the children to be bored and see what happens. Turns out that may not be such a bad thing after all.
By allowing them a certain amount of freedom within clear parameters, I see my kids learning an important skill: self-motivation.
Psychology Today defines boredom as "a lack of stimulation and the unpleasant feelings that come along with it." In order to mitigate these unpleasant feelings, some kids (and adults) zone out with computer games or watch television for hours. In other cases, the bored individual will resort to finding stimulating activities to entertain him or herself.
What I've resolved to do—and I hope my tips help you deal with this recurring summer boredom issue—is set certain parameters while giving the kids the means to entertain themselves when and how they see fit, as long as it doesn't involve a dangerous activity such as skating down the street against traffic without a helmet or jumping off the roof!
By allowing them a certain amount of freedom within clear parameters, I see my kids learning an important skill: self-motivation. And by not jumping to action when they claim to be bored, they end up figuring out for themselves that maybe playing chess or putting on a magic show may be a fun thing to do.
During long summer days at home, experiment with placing a schedule on the fridge for all to see (this works best for kids 6 and up.)
Our schedule goes something like this:
Wake up time to 10 a.m.: Breakfast, TV, gaming, electronics—that's the stuff they consider a privilege because we set time limits on them.
10-12 p.m.: Summer home-camp activities. They all need to sit together around the dining room table and do worksheets and projects that may involve teamwork or individual tasks. This summer we're doing the LL4L DIY Summer Reading Program.
Mid-day: Lunch and about an hour of quiet (boring) time. They each go to their bedroom and read, hang out, nap, whatever they want to do, but it needs to be in their bedroom. This gives the adults a pleasant break from sibling bickering and also allows them to experiment with boredom.
Afternoon and evening: More opportunities to figure out on their own how to stave off boredom. In our house we have books, a basketball hoop, a pool (I realize a home pool may not be the case for everyone, in which case a hose or a splash pool will do), board games, materials for arts and crafts, musical instruments and a dog to play with. The neighbors' kids are usually back from their formal summer camp by that time, so our kids are free to do what they want when they want within reason.
Does that mean I'm no longer riddled with guilt over not taking them on fancy outings daily? No, of course not. Being a mom seems to come with a pocketful of guilt. But then I think back to my childhood days and really, the long, lazy summer days when no adult told me what to do or how to do it. That forced me to find ways to entertain myself.
With no video games, Internet or hundreds of TV channels to surf, I would watch my grandfather paint and my father write, and I followed suit. Boredom made me an avid reader and a writer. Will my kids follow in my footsteps? Maybe not, but at least they will have great memories of the free time they sometimes wonder what to do with. Maybe one day they'll tell their own kids how being bored made them more resourceful and self-reliant.