Turning Summer Boredom into Opportunities to Grow
by Kathy Slattengren, M. Ed., Priceless Parenting (sign up for monthly parenting newsletter and receive 20+ printable charts for kids and parents)
Summer is a time for kids to enjoy being kids, but it can also be a stressful time for parents. You love your children and want them to have fun. You also want them to use their time in a healthy way.
How will your children be spending their time this summer? Summer vacation with time off from school provides many opportunities for growth, fun and also trouble. It's the trouble that you want to avoid!
Concerns About Kids' Free Time
Some parents look forward to the unstructured time their children can enjoy during the summer while others worry about how their children will fill those extra hours. What are your greatest concerns about the free time your kids have during the summer?
A group of parents gave these as some of their concerns:
- Spending too much time watching TV, playing video games, being on devices
- Arguing more due to having so much time together
- Kids being home alone
- Going to a friend's house where there is no adult supervision
- Knowing what they are really doing when they are away from home
- Forgetting what they've learned in school
- Struggling to figure out what to do that doesn't involve watching a screen
- Not wanting to read because "I'm not in school now."
- Getting into a routine that will be difficult to break when school starts again
A number of the concerns these parents expressed revolve around the fact that they
and their children have different priorities. Not many children are concerned about having too much screen time or too little outdoor playing time!
Developing a Plan for a Successful Summer
Before sitting down with your kids to discuss the plans for the summer, clarify your top priorities. Do you really want your kids to advance their academic skills? Get exercise? Learn something new? Contribute to running to the household? Go on vacation together? Develop a new skill like making meals? Reconnect with family or friends?
Determining your values will shape your idea of a successful summer. Knowing that your kids probably have a different viewpoint on the elements of an awesome summer, it's wise to sit down and make a plan that takes into account everyone's desires.
Plan a time to get together as a family when nobody has to rush off. Bring a calendar and a notebook to the meeting. It's important to choose someone to write down what is agreed on so that everyone walks away with a common understanding.
One way to make sure everyone's voice is heard is to go around the circle giving each family member the opportunity to respond to topics like:
- One thing you would really like to do this summer
- Something new you would like to learn this summer
- Commitments that are already made (lessons, camps, vacations)
Given the extra time kids have at home during the summer, you may want to assign additional
chores for your kids to help the family
. Some parents only provide the daily Wi-Fi password after the kids have completed their chores. Some pay for the extra chores. Earning money is a great way for your kids to pay for special items or an event they would like to attend.
Another topic you will probably want to bring up is the limits on activities. For example, you may want to establish time limits on watching TV, being on the computer and playing video games. You may also want to discuss limits around where your kids can go when they're out in the neighborhood and when they need to check in with you.
After the meeting everybody should review the notes to verify their correctness and make any changes necessary. Put the calendar and notes somewhere easily visible. Plan to have another meeting to track how things are going and determine if any changes need to be made.
Benefitting From Being Bored
It's not your job to entertain your kids all summer. It's their job to figure out how they would like to use their time constructively. Your kids need down time to
tap into their creativity
. Hanging out, daydreaming and even being bored are prerequisites for creativity!
Are your kids struggling to find something to do that doesn't involve watching a screen? If so, have your kids write down non-screen things they like to do on small slips of paper. Next have them create and decorate a "fun ideas" container to hold these pieces of paper.
When your children need inspiration for an activity, they can draw two or three papers and then decide which idea they want to do. If you want some ideas that other kids have written, a
"boredom busting activity ideas"
list is available.
By giving them freedom within limits, you help them develop new skills and find ways to enjoy themselves without having to be entertained. Developing this ability will serve them well throughout their lives.