What “I’m bored” really means

“I’m Bored”

In the mouth of a child it can mean so many different things.

Most of the time as adults, we interpret the phrase to mean “I don’t have anything to do.” Or, “what I’m doing doesn’t interest me.”

What else could it mean?

So much!

For example, if you’re my 7th grade daughter who loves being social, it means, “I want to hang out with my friends and do stuff together and anything else right now is boring.”

Or, sometimes it means she is completely under-stimulated and going out of her mind, (which as a sensorily sensitive introvert is how I feel after an hour of being in Costco!)  

When she describes a class at school it means that she had to just sit and listen passively while the teacher talked.

On a Sunday morning before Hebrew school, it means “I’d rather be in my pajamas and stay home,” or “None of my friends are going to be there.”

I realize that to me as a child it meant, “I want someone to talk to me or a friend to keep me company.” 

What do you think it meant to you as a child?

Ah, the irony

Even though we’ve had this experience of being bored, we don’t usually respond from empathy. We give answers and solutions.

We forget that as adults, we have more autonomy to navigate ourselves towards what we need, want, towards distractions or things of interest.

(And, those distractions are not always such good things for us. Yes, I’m talking about chocolate.)

What’s great about our kids being bored?

One of the things we have an opportunity to do during this unique period of epic boredom for children who would prefer to play and be more active, is to help them identify their specific needs and discomfort, (to play, to see friends, to talk.. etc.) name and move through their feelings instead of avoiding them or pushing them down.

How do we do that?

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

Here are my suggested alternative answers for children who complain about boredom!

  • Dig a little deeper and help them get clearer about what they mean and what they want.
    • What wouldn’t be boring for you right now?
    • What does bored feel like?
    • If boring was a color – what color would it be? Why? What could would you like to be doing instead?
  • Ask the child to rate their boredom on a scale. This creates a space to reorient around what is good in the moment and gives you more information.

On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being so bored you are like a piece of cardboard and 10 being not bored at all, how bored are you?

  • Most likely the child will pick a number somewhat above 1. The next question is to ask: what makes it a 3… or a 5…? This question shifts the child’s focus to what is stimulating them and reorients them toward the positive.
  • Bring their awareness towards developing their own strategies: What worked for you the last time you were bored?
  • Start a conversation about something that has meaning to them. Give a few minutes of your time to listen.

If you choose any friend to be with right now, who would it be? Why?

            Or

            If you could do any activity you wanted right now what would it be? Why?

The word “boring” will never sound boring to you again!

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