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Jun23WedAn invitation to unstructured time. June 23, 2021 by Captain Bhreagh Rowe
“But Mom, that’s boring!” I remember the first time I heard my son, Maverick, say those words. My heart sank just a little. For the first five years of his life, everything was an adventure. He could get excited about watching paint dry. But then the word bored was introduced into his vocabulary, and all of a sudden, this momma was deep in the trenches of parenting.
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. One of the greatest tragedies of our time is just how quickly kids are forced to grow up. They see more, hear more and know more, at an earlier age, than ever before. All this knowledge is creating anxious, bored kids, with a constant need for entertainment.
Are we surprised? As adults, we are numbing our boredom every day with the latest and greatest (or trashiest) reality TV and mindless scrolling on social media. We don’t even remember what it’s like to be bored so, directly or indirectly, we are raising kids who do not know this feeling either. It’s a problem now, and it will only get worse as these kids grow into adults.
You might be thinking that this is just the world we live in and we need to prepare our kids for what it will be like. That’s what I thought for a quick second, too, but then I realized just how dangerous that thinking is.
Imagine this situation. You go to a sporting event for one of your kids, and the other gets bored watching. What do most of us do? We hand them a screen, and, bam, the boredom is gone. I’m not here to judge; my husband and I do this, too, and we are still trying to break bad screen habits developed during the pandemic. But consider what the child will miss with a screen in their face: cheering or encouraging their sibling or friend, making friends, enjoying nature, engaging with grown-ups, unstructured play, learning the skill of patience, spending time with you.
We over-schedule, overstimulate and over-busy our kids all in the name of learning when, in reality, all that overstructuring is creating exactly what we are trying to avoid—kids with little-to-no imagination, creativity or basic life skills. It might sound harsh, but it’s the hard truth that can result in the biggest and most beautiful changes.
Let’s address one thing before we look at what to do. Those of you from previous generations (I’m looking at you, boomers!) are probably clapping right now, because this is what you believe and have no idea why we do things the way we do. But no matter how much you think “parenting is parenting,” it’s just not the case. We are raising kids in a world and a culture that is completely different than when you raised kids. We are raising kids in a world different than it was just a year ago (hello, COVID-19). Most parents today have the best intentions, so when you see us struggling or doing something you think is “wrong,” give us some love and grace, please!
Here are some ideas and things to remember:
- Boredom sparks creativity. You do not always need to fix your kid’s boredom.
- Don’t be afraid to be the uncool parent.
- Provide child-sized explanations and experiences, not adult-sized.
- If your child’s basic needs are met, letting them have uninterrupted downtime is a beautiful gift.
- Make a list of all the things they can do that do not involve screens just within the boundaries of your home.
- Schedule one Saturday a month where you do nothing together as a family.
- Bring back the Sunday afternoon drive.
Remember your parenting mission—is it to raise little humans who go with the flow and are consumed by this adult world, or is it to raise passionate followers of Jesus who live in, but are not of, the world? One of the best foundations for life is to give kids the gift of white space, adventure and innocence. Friends, let them be bored.
Captain Bhreagh Rowe is the community ministries officer at St. Albert Church and Community Centre in Edmonton.
Photo: D-Keine/E+ via Getty Images
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