It’s good for kids to be bored. I know this, you know this, most of us know this. We were bored as kids, roaming the neighbourhood with our friends, our imaginations and a distinct lack of electronic devices. We believe this boredom is at least partly responsible for the creativity and resilience we developed as kids. We had to make our own, distinctly unscheduled, fun.
In fact, we have recommended on this very site that you Let Kids Be Bored, Already! Bored kids are less anxious kids, we told you. Bored kids are calmer, more relaxed and more creative, we said. But the problem likely wasn’t that you didn’t know that. The problem was that we didn’t know how to fit a childhood of the 1970s or ‘80s into today’s world, a world in which we’re scared to leave our kids in the car for five minutes for fear that someone call CPS and accuse us of neglect. Square peg, round hole.
It’s not that our kids don’t want to roam with their friends, independent of their parents; it’s that social norms no longer allow for such a thing until they are too old to care anymore—and are much more practiced at burying their face in screens than finding fun wandering the neighbourhood. It’s not that we wanted to over-schedule them with sports and clubs and lessons; it’s that this was the way to allow them a chance to socialise with their friends after school.
Over time, maybe it became a habit. For them and for us. They never really learned how to be bored, so we made things like “boredom jars” to try to teach them. And we kept right on scheduling because the parents of their friends kept right on scheduling and at least they were all scheduled together.
And then the coronavirus shut the world down. It erased their schedules, it blurred every day into the next, it made life boring. So consistently and oppressively boring that they’re actually, maybe, a little bit, starting to push past the frustration phase and into the part that comes next—the part where they get creative. The part where they make up a new game or pick up a book they wouldn’t normally read. Or they ask to go for a walk.
A walk. If you’d told me eight weeks ago that my son would ask to go for a walk, would be excited for that walk, and would request that we make it an extra long walk this time, to say that I wouldn’t have believed you would be putting it quite mildly.
I’m not saying any of this is easy. I’m not saying the boredom or the whining about the boredom isn’t the thing that might finally make you crack. I’m just saying many of us have unwittingly accomplished a thing we’ve long wanted to accomplish or attempted to accomplish without much success.
We worry about the longterm impact this time will have on our kids. Whether they’ll fall behind academically or feel isolated socially. There are no studies to guide us, no comparisons to make. But they have no choice but to lean on their inherent creativity right now. They have no choice but to be resilient.
If there is any silver lining to be found in this pandemic, if there is any shred of positivity to grasp at during this awful, scary, heartbreaking time, it might be this: Finally—finally—our kids are bored.