• Of course, the easiest option for me and the harmony of the household is to give in or provide entertainment. I’m guilty of both. (E+)Source: E+
"He doesn’t know what to do without constant entertainment. He doesn’t know how to be bored," writes Jo Hartley.
By
Jo Hartley

5 May 2020 - 10:04 AM  UPDATED 5 May 2020 - 12:13 PM

My son comes out of his room. He’s only been awake 10 minutes and already it’s started. ‘I’m bored’ he says with his usual eye roll and slumped shoulders. Today he’s banned from screens after bad behaviour. Now, apparently, there’s nothing to do. The result? He just can’t cope.

I suggest he do a puzzle, play a game or, heaven forbid, help with some chores. Such suggestions are met with a dismissive sneer.

‘What else can I do?’ he asks, expecting me to magic up something exciting. In isolation, that’s pretty hard. ‘Use your imagination,’ I suggest hopefully. Apparently, that’s not an option either.

And there lies the problem. He doesn’t know what to do without constant entertainment. He doesn’t know how to be bored.

Revert to what was once ‘normal life’ and things aren’t any different.

Revert to what was once ‘normal life’ and things aren’t any different.

At weekends, if his friends aren’t cruising up and down the street and his allocated time for screens has been exhausted, he’s at a loss. He drags himself around the house, generally being a pain. It’s the same in school holidays.

Of course, the easiest option for me and the harmony of the household is to give in or provide entertainment. I’m guilty of both.

I’m guilty of allowing him to sit in his room with his eyes glued to some brain numbing YouTube channel.  Similarly, I’m guilty of often buying him the latest must-have gadget or toy or taking him out and paying a small fortune for activities that only fill an hour.

I’m guilty of allowing him to sit in his room with his eyes glued to some brain numbing YouTube channel.

Holiday time is jam packed with play dates, activities and ferrying him and his friends from trampoline parks to skate parks to the beach.

In term time his evenings are filled with sports and play dates, followed by dinner and bed. There’s little time for boredom in between.

However, I’m not alone in doing this. Other parents tell me they do the same.

It’s almost as if our children being bored is a reflection of poor parenting or some kind of failure on our behalf. Social media posts and societal pressure only exacerbates this feeling.

We’ve somehow bought into the thinking that a happy and contented child is always busy, has ALL the things and does every activity under the sun.

We’ve somehow brought into the thinking that a happy and contented child is always busy, has ALL the things and does every activity under the sun.

At the risk of sounding really old, we’ve forgotten what it was like ‘back in our day’. We didn’t have endless TV channels and iPads. Most of us weren’t entertained by parents taking us on constant outings.  Going to the trampoline park was a treat, as were play dates and sleepovers.

We were expected to entertain ourselves. If we were bored, we were told to read a book, play with our toys or use our imaginations and, for the most part, we did.

Otherwise, for want of a better saying, we had to ‘suck it up’.

Isolation has made me realise that my son needs to do the same. Now, more than ever, he needs to appreciate how to embrace boredom and learn how to manage it. Life isn’t about constant entertainment, it’s often boring, and we have to make the most of it.

In fact, much as my son will disagree, boredom is actually good for him.

Parenting experts note that when children are required to find something to do, they're forced to use their problem-solving skills, creative thinking and imagination to play.

Parenting experts note that when children are required to find something to do, they're forced to use their problem-solving skills, creative thinking and imagination to play.

In one study at the University of Central Lancashire, researchers found that the more bored a person is, the more they daydream, allowing their brain to switch off and top up their ‘creativity tank’.

Other studies have found that having unscheduled time results in greater resourcefulness, consequently building independence and resilience.

I’m damn sure that If I were to quote these studies and their findings to my son, I’d be met with a very predictable answer. ‘Boooooring’!

But for now, particularly while life is relatively boring and unpredictable for us all, it’s a catch cry of his that’s going to fall on deaf ears. In fact, I’m bored of hearing it.

Jo Hartley is a freelance writer. Follow Jo on Twitter @hartley_jo.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

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