Why Boredom Is a Good Thing

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My son came up with bug headbands for a birthday party made from pipe cleaners, styrofoam balls and lots of glue and glitter. The kids looked adorable. He also got to wear a birthday crown.

Do you remember being bored as a kid? I do. But it never lasted. I could go outside when we lived in town and go ask a neighbor to play. Or, I’d jump on my bike and ride around the block. We could run over to the house down the street that had an extra lot with a brown quarter horse named Snoopy. I’d climb on the fence to pet the white strip that ran down his nose. Most of the time I’d read, or play library and create library cards for all my books and arrange them by author on my bookshelves. Boredom just wasn’t a thing. Our mom was strict about TV and it wasn’t an option. She allowed two half-hour shows daily that she circled in the TV Guide — and they were usually on PBS.

These days, many kids never experience boredom because they lose themselves in a device like their iphones. Before COVID, many parents had their kids involved in too many activities like swimming, piano, theater, dance, etc. that the kids didn’t have a chance to slow down while juggling hours of homework. Today, with shelter in place, many kids probably are bored. And that’s not a bad thing. Bored kids use their imaginations and find something creative to do. I don’t think it’s helping them to be entertained externally all the time. I wrote about promoting a creative spirit in kids last week, here and here.

Without creativity and an imagination, our kids won’t be problem solvers or discover new ways of doing things. If your kids are bored, so what? It’s okay. Ignore the whining and let them figure it out.

 In the Sarasota Herald Tribune, parenting experts Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman wrote Allow your kids to embrace boredom

 Have you noticed that our generation of parents is terrified of letting our kids become bored? Their anxiety is what drives them to pack a boatload of amusement options when they leave the house.

A few years ago, a waiter at a restaurant in North Dakota told us about a trend in his community. One local mom had created a custom quilted bag for holding multiple tablets so that every member of the family could be distracted and amused while they waited for their meal. It was wildly popular, he said.

Not only is our society’s pervasive reliance on amusement killing conversation and opportunities to connect and build relationships, it’s also preempting opportunities for boredom. Boredom is important for building imagination, creativity and innovation in our kids. Of course we can’t force these things into our children but we can set up an environment that will support the journey.

When we allow our kids to grapple with boredom on their own, rather than providing for them structured activities or distractions and amusements, imagination and creativity may come to their rescue!

“It is possible for boredom to deliver us to our best selves,” said author Nancy Blakey. “If we sit still long enough, we may hear the call behind boredom. With practice, we may have the imagination to rise up from the emptiness and answer.”

If we provide our kids with a constant stream of amusement options, which includes a plethora of extracurricular activities, we rob them of the opportunity to explore the open space in their own minds where the imagination hides.

They make a good point about having a structured schedule. With piano, swimming and homework, there wasn’t a lot of time for my kids to get bored during the school year. The summers gave us more hours for imaginative play. Also, swim meets when the kids would be sitting under a pop-up tent for hours on end resulted in some imaginative play. We’d be at a meet for five or six hours and they’d race for only a few minutes here and there. I remember observing some very creative verbal word games.

According to the article, the authors suggest having bins and jars filled with all sorts of things in easy reach for your kids like popsicle sticks, fabric, string, paints, googly eyes, papers of different colors and textures, glues, etc. Their suggestion:

Then let your kids get good and bored. Don’t offer many suggestions. Simply say, “Oh, there are lots of things you could do. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” It may take time but eventually their imaginations will awaken and lead them to new horizons.

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The bug headbands made an appearance at several birthdays.

What do you do when your kids are bored?

 

Did you know gratitude can make us healthier?

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I’m grateful for these two.

I started an evening gratitude journal, which includes an exercise known as “Three Blessings.” Every evening, I write three things I’m thankful for that happened during the day. They may be little things, like something beautiful I saw on a walk, or bigger like a new writing job referral. Then after each, I explain why the moment happened. It’s an exercise I learned about from a book called “Flourish” by Martin E.P. Seligman. He says in his book that this exercise has been proven to be just as effective as taking anti-depressants in fighting depression! I find it as a nice way to get grounded after a busy day and reflect on everything that is going well.

I try to have an attitude of gratitude. I didn’t realize how many benefits being grateful brings to your life until I read “Gratitude yields health and social benefits” by Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman in the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Here’s what they had to say:

Positive emotions such as gratitude open our minds.

With Thanksgiving having passed, we may want a jump start on our New Year’s resolutions. Research shows such a long list of health and social benefits that families might want to focus on cultivating an attitude of gratitude all year long.

Researchers at Northeastern University found that grateful people are more likely to be patient and make wiser decisions.

Gratitude also makes us more likely to take better care of ourselves. In one psychology journal, a study showed that a grateful attitude correlated to a greater willingness to eat healthier foods, exercise more and go to the doctor. Some research even shows that being appreciative boosts willpower.

Counting our blessings before bedtime can also translate to better sleep. One researcher said it may help soothe the nervous system. Not only can gratitude improve our quality of sleep, it can also help us fall asleep faster and sleep longer.

The health benefits of gratitude can’t be overstated. It’s been shown to decrease physical pain, reduce symptoms associated with depression, decrease blood pressure and boost energy levels. In fact, simply cultivating a lifestyle of gratitude can add an average of seven years to your lifespan.

Being grateful also makes us more resilient, less envious, more optimistic, kinder and more social. It’s no wonder that the more grateful a person is, the more likely the person is to have strong social connections, healthier marriages, larger friendship circles and improved networking skills.

Not only does gratitude have the power to transform our health, our social lives and our careers, it can transform our personalities. Research shows that gratitude contributes to a wide range of positive character traits. It makes us humble and it makes us more generous. Together, these traits combat entitlement and self-centeredness. Grateful people are more willing and able to focus on others and can therefore contribute more broadly to their communities.

We the parents have both the opportunity and the obligation to raise children who will have a positive and transformative effect on the future. As we focus on grooming an attitude of gratitude in our kids, we are not only improving their own quality of life but we are helping to change the world one child at a time.

I do believe it’s our duty as parents to instill gratitude as a trait our kids should embrace. One way is to start a gratitude journal. Another tip is to ask your children at dinner or bedtime to name three things they’re grateful for. In the book I’m reading called “Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance” by Julia Cameron, has exercises to list 10 things you cherish. Another day there I was asked to write 10 things I’m thankful for. It’s not a bad thing to do. By the way, I gave my husband a journal of gratitude and he’s enjoying writing a few things each day.

As parents, I think we need to let our kids and family know how much they mean to us. It’s that time of year!

What are you most grateful for in your life?

Tips to Press the Pause Button as a Parent

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Just breathe!

One of my kids’ principals from elementary school talked about the “mother bear” syndrome. It’s that creature that comes out of our skin when we think our child is being harmed. The mother bear may come out when our child is being bullied, or comes home upset about something their teacher or coach said.

I’m sure we’re all familiar with that gut-wrenching feeling when we want to protect our child. It starts with a burst of adrenaline and may result into marching into the principal’s office or picking up the phone to chew out a parent about their kid being mean.

In a parenting article, ‘To make sound decisions, employ the power of the pause,” in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman offer tips that will help us as parents as well as in the rest of our lives. Here’s an excerpt:

The pause is the space you intentionally create in your mind to pull back from circumstances and retreat into a quiet corner of your psyche — a place where you can calm your nerves, think about the end result that you want to achieve and plan the steps you will take to reach it.

The pause can mean the difference between reacting out of raw emotion and responding out of rational choices. Often, it can mean the difference between strengthening and ruining relationships.

Few things spark an explosion in our emotional state like a conflict can. But when we pause, sometimes even excusing ourselves from the room, we can take slow, deep breaths to calm our bodies and regulate the fight or flight hormones that are coursing through our veins. We can pray or meditate for a few minutes, and then we can ask ourselves a few critical questions:

– What emotions am I feeling?

– What triggered these emotions?

– What is the root problem here?

– What is my role in fixing the problem?

– What is the best outcome in this situation?

– What is the best way to reach that outcome?

Instead of reacting to a situation from the intense emotions sparked by the conflict, the pause gives you the advantage of responding thoughtfully, carefully and calmly.

I used to be an emotional parent who would react at the slightest wrong-doing I perceived. Through the years, I learned to wait at least 24 hours before taking action. Action to me meant sending an email, making a phone call or showing up in person for a face-to-face meeting. Often, after I slept on it, I had clarity. In most cases, the problem went away on its own. Then a new one would pop up. Can you imagine how much energy and outrage it would take if I reacted to every uncomfortable moment my kids’ encountered?

Now, I use the pause in my own life if there’s something I need to deal with. I weigh the pros and cons, decide what outcome I want–and if it’s worth the energy to pursue at all. It makes life run smoother in the long run. I’ve written about this here.

My kids call and ask for advice on how to handle a situation at work or with a roommate. I offer the same advice of taking a pause. Wait a day or two before making a decision. When we’re flooded with emotion, it’s hard to make the right one.

From the article:

As parents, we can also coach our kids through this process. When we see emotions begin to spike, we can gently pull the child aside, help them calm down and then walk them through the same problem solving questions that we would ask ourselves.

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Walking outside and enjoying nature can put things in perspective.

Do you have any other tips to offer for making rational decisions when we get upset? Please share below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

How to best prepare your kids for “adulting”

katrobAre your kids prepared to leave the nest? Do they know how to do more than go to school and complete their homework? With helicopter and snow plow parents not allowing them to fail, let alone do the dishes or laundry, a lot of our children are not prepared to become adults.

In the Sarasota Herald Tribune, two parenting experts I enjoy reading, Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman, give a strategy to help prepare your kids for the next step. They suggest to adopt an apprenticeship mindset.

Here’s an excerpt from “PARENTING: Preparing our kids for skills of adulthood.”

Adopt an apprenticeship mindset

Preparing our kids for adulthood is one of the paramount duties of parenting. By the time our kids leave our homes, they should be able to run a household; learn anything they may need to know; make, manage and grow money; and contribute to society.

As adults, our kids will need to know what to do when the toilet backs up. They will need to know what to do when they are sick or injured. They will need to be able to plan and prepare food, negotiate a sale, research products they want to buy and maintain their vehicle.

One way to help prepare our kids for adulthood is to adopt an apprenticeship mindset in the family.

When your toilet gets hopelessly clogged and you have to pull the toilet to remove the clog and then replace the wax ring before reinstalling the toilet, grab a kid and have them help you. Talk about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

When it’s time to change the oil in the car, do you take it someplace to have it changed or do you do it yourself? Talk to your child about why you make that particular choice. If you take it in to have the oil changed, tell your child where you are going and why you chose that place. Take them with you and, on the way, talk about why you do oil changes and how often. If you change the oil yourself, take your child along and have him or her help you.

If you have to get quotes for a new insurance policy, pull your child into the process. Talk about why insurance is important and how it works. As you research your options, keep your child by your side and discuss what you find.

When it’s time to pay the bills, pull up a chair next to you and let your child be a part of the process. Talk about the bills and why they are important. Point out due dates and talk about the consequences for missing due dates. Talk about your family budget, and help your child understand that everything has a cost.

This idea of treating your kids like apprentices seems so simple but it does take time. When we get busy, it often feels easier to do everything ourselves. I failed my son in preparing him for his first year of college, which is why he struggled. After learning what my son didn’t know — like how to get home from Costco on his bike with milk, cereal and Top Ramen — I made sure that my daughter was prepared.

Because I homeschooled my daughter for middle school, I had time to teach her about daily tasks and chores. Everything we did was a lesson from pumping gas to opening a checking account (which is probably why she couldn’t wait to start high school and escape!) In contrast, my son took too many AP classes and was always on the go, rushing from homework, to swim practice, piano lessons, plays, science fairs, etc. I did his laundry and drove forgotten homework to school and everything else I could to make his life run smoothly.

My tip for parents is to follow the advice to teach your kids daily tasks they’ll need for adulthood. I made a list of ten things they need to know before college, here. Also, if they’re busy, let them fail and not be perfect. They also need to learn how to pick themselves up after failure.10575366_10204674805333844_4491881722162368424_o

How do you teach your children the daily skills they’ll need for survival on their own?