WHAT?! But then I thought about it - how many times have I stood waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store with my phone in my hand so that I could check emails (or Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook....) while I wait? Quite a few, as it turns out.
In the next paragraph, Dodgen-Magee writes, "The conundrum we’ve created for ourselves is profound. We are uncomfortable with stillness of mind/heart/body so we don’t require it of ourselves. Consequently, the less we practice being bored, quiet, and still the less capacity we have to handle these states of being. In no time, we have developed the habit of distracting ourselves and any ability we did have to tolerate boredom (otherwise known as “open and receptive states of mind and body”) has atrophied due to under-use." (To read her entire article, follow the "article" link above.)
Open and receptive states of mind and body. Good stuff.
As parents, we often hurry to fill our children's empty moments. It isn't uncommon to hear a parent talk about getting children signed up for lots of activities "so that they don't get bored." We put this pressure on ourselves to entertain our children, and yet doing so robs them of some very important intellectual/emotional skill-development. Sydney loaned me her articles for this blog, and in one of them she cites one of her favorite authors, Anna Quindlan, "I don't believe you can write poetry or compose music or become an actor without down time, and plenty of it, a hiatus that passes for boredom but is really the quiet moving of the wheels inside that fuel creativity."
The quiet moving of the wheels inside that fuel creativity. More good stuff.
What does it look like to help our children "embrace boredom"? One thing we can do is to model it by having our own down time and articulating how we like to decide what to do when there is nothing on the schedule. Model using "wait time" for quiet thought instead of pulling out an electronic device. Share what you like to think about, or describe how you let your mind wander.
We can resist the urge to step in and "save" our children the moment they announce that they are bored. Another quote Sydney cites is from an article in Family Circle, "Experts urge parents to remember that many children, accustomed to being entertained, may be slow to develop the urge to use their imagination." Set a timer for 10 minutes and if they haven't come up with anything by the time it goes off, then perhaps a suggestion or two would help them move forward.
Make a list with them of the things they enjoy doing. Sydney used to do that with her own children. It was hanging on the fridge for those times when they were feeling restless and couldn't think of something to do. She writes that oftentimes, even before they would walk over to read the list, they had come up with something they wanted to do. Maybe just knowing it was there was enough to help them navigate the discomfort of having empty time on their hands.
(I like to offer my own two - both teenagers - a list of chores that need to be done when they complain of "nothing to do", but I digress...)
Honor it when your child resists having too much on the calendar. Some children love to be busy - but others find it stressful and tiring. In our family, we have one of each. I've learned over the years that it's important to value and respect both of those perspectives. It's possible that your child would actually be happier with less to do - even if it means a little
Thinking about all of this in order to write my blog was a wonderful reminder to me about the importance of stillness - and it couldn't have come at a better time of year! I hope that all of you are able to find or make time for stillness this holiday season. It's truly a gift that keeps on giving.