The lockdown has been long and mentally exhausting for almost all of us, given that we’re all socially distancing with our faces glued to various devices—most of the work force is working from home, but even kids today are spending more time in front of their screens. After all, virtual schooling is the norm. This begs the questions: do kids really indulge in down time?
A few weeks ago, on my weekly run to the supermarket, I found myself looking over at a young mother who was handing over her mobile phone to her screaming toddler in an attempt to distract him so she could continue her errands and head out. A few aisles over, I stumbled on two brothers engaged in what I can only categorise as a first person shooter game. Do kids today really find it difficult to be in the moment without mobile devices to distract them? Is it really so bad to just let kids get bored?
According to Dr Mehezabin Dordi, clinical psychologist, Reliance Foundation Hospital, “Children today are accustomed to a life that is encompassed by technology. If a child gets bored, parents tend to immediately provide them with some sort of technological aid be it television, a mobile device, or social media. Today, innovative thinking patterns have lost their charm considering children are used to an easy or a rapid solution policy to keep themselves occupied.”
Of course, it doesn’t help that kids are constantly busy keeping up with their jam-packed schedules and extra-curricular activities. “Parents are always in a frenzy to fend off their child’s boredom. When a child gets bored with his/her studies or any activity that they have been engaged in for a while, it is best to let them experience the boredom. When a child’s mind is occupied, their brain is focused on the task at hand. When the child gets bored, the brain also gets a chance to relax,” explains Dr Dordi.
Naturally, this means that there are benefits to boredom. And research is available to back these claims. Here are some benefits of letting your child get bored every now and then:
It opens your child’s mind and boosts creativityWhen children are left without quick-fix solutions to beat boredom, there’s a good chance they’ll be forced to use their imagination to keep themselves entertained. “When children are bored, they are forced to find out creative ways in which their boredom can be dissuaded. When parents encourage their children to try new things on their own, it builds up a sense of discovery and curiosity and also helps them to explore what brings them happiness,” says Dr Dordi.
It helps them build resilience and teaches gritLet’s face it, everyone believes that they’re capable of doing everything. Kids are no different. Give them to do something in a way they’re accustomed to, they’ll excel. Take that comfort away from them, and they might just meet a few hurdles. Boredom can lead to making them think outside the box, and be more accepting of their abilities and skills. “Having free time to try things out without the fear of failure is essential if a child is to develop grit and resilience. Research states that when a child is bored, he often has to deal with it alone. Thinking about innovative ways to keep oneself occupied requires a serious amount of grit and making the child think about ways in which he/she can deal with their boredom facilitates this resilience,” opines Dr Dordi.
It helps foster a problem-solving mind setWhen things come easy, we often take it for granted. The same principle can be applied to everyday life and situations. The fact that boredom forces a child to think creatively is perhaps the biggest step to a well-rounded development. Says Dr Dordi, “Children are born with the ability to solve problems; they’re just not given the opportunity to do so considering parents tend to get sucked into doing all the planning for their children, and in turn end up taking on the responsibility of keeping the children occupied. Allowing a child to experience boredom will help him/her come up with solutions to the problem of ‘boredom’, and find an activity that will drive away that boredom, while helping him/her hone their problem solving skills.”
It boosts confidenceAs children learn from their mistakes, when they’re successful at a task at hand, there’s an unadulterated confidence that shines through. Boredom helps realise that potential and boosts confidence. “The emotional and cognitive growth of a child tends to get stunted with over stimulation. Moreover, a child may think that technology is an overall solution to boredom. It’s important to remember that self-confidence and mental health go hand-in-hand so when a parent encourages a child’s ideas, he/she will feel confident about dealing with a problem head-on. And this increased sense of confidence will lead to better emotional functioning,” explains Dr Dordi.
However, while important life skills are just some of the benefits of letting children get bored, it contributes far more than meets the eye. “Boredom sparks many arenas in a child’s life and is a great way to improve the overall mental health. If the boredom is tackled in the right way, a child will be empowered to function in a well-rounded manner, and lead a rather fulfilling life while enjoying an elevated state of mind,” says Dr Dordi, signing off.