This article was first published on August 1st 2019 in The Majorca Daily Bulletin. Written by Julie Waller
“In 1993, psychoanalyst Adam Phillips wrote that the “capacity to be bored can be a developmental achievement for the child.” Write
I am sure we all have stories of calling out on a journey “are we there yet” and “I’m bored!” and as parents many of us have a guilt pang and feel that it is somehow our job to occupy our children, keep them happy, but maybe we need to take the risk and just let them get bored!
Some of my own most creative moments as a child were when we were at home for the school holidays being looked after by my elder sister. She would usually curl up on the sofa or sun bed with a book, my younger brother would play with his toys whilst I would ‘make things’ out of cardboard. My best efforts I recall – a typewriter that had movable keys and when I inked the letters would crash into the paper leaving a vaguely recognisable smudge that I was so proud of. Similarly, a ‘working’ till that I would use whilst forcing my brother to play ‘shops’. I remember adding library cards to all our books and insisting my siblings borrowed them and returned them in time or got a fine! Early leadership qualities? Or potential bullying qualities? Either way they were activities that I dreamed up as fun for me – my brother may now be psychologically harmed for life but that’s another article in the future!
I often hear parents are quite concerned about the long school holidays. When asked they reel off a list of things they think that they should do with their children to stop them from getting bored. But here’s the thing – they may inadvertently be affecting natural child development by being over cautious.
continues “Your role as a parent is to prepare children to take their place in society. Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that will make you happy,” says Lyn Fry, a child psychologist in London with a focus on education. “If parents spend all their time filling up their child’s spare time, then the child’s never going to learn to do this for themselves.” And “boredom is crucial for developing “internal stimulus,” which then allows true creativity.” – Dr Teresa Belton.
One suggestion in the article is to sit with our kids at the start of a long break and help to create a list of things they like to do. Some may be full on family treats, others more solitary activities such as reading or painting. Then when they come up to us and say “I’m bored” we refer them back to the list to choose something. The emphasis here, is in the children themselves directing their activities, owning if you like, the outcome and realising they can direct their own behaviours to be fruitful.
Linked to summer holiday issues is the article written just a few days ago in they report that children are less fit and more obese after the long school holidays in the UK! I did wonder if this was the same for kids in Mallorca, as I have a natural assumption that children here are out and active most of the summer, but maybe, if they are spending more time with tech, this could be true here too.
“The study, () conducted by Sainsbury’s partner, Premier Education and the ukactive Research Institute, monitored school children over a 13-month period and found that the number of overweight and obese children fell steadily between the start of the school year and breaking up for the Summer holidays. However by the time children returned to school the next Autumn – following the summer holiday – the number of overweight and obese children had climbed to nearly a quarter (24%), and the average BMI of the whole group had increased from 17.64 to 18.26.
What’s more, the children had suffered a loss in fitness levels of up to 80% over the summer holidays.
In fact, the short holiday period undid the positive impact of the whole school year: more children returned to school overweight or obese and less physically fit than they had been at the start of the previous academic year.”
So maybe when we help our children draw up that list we need to discuss activity levels and diet! Now that’s beginning to sound a bit boring! However, to borrow the lovely quote from Bertrand Russel in 1930 at the end of the qz article, we may as parents have a duty to model ‘boring’:
“A child develops best when, like a young plant, he is left undisturbed in the same soil. Too much travel, too much variety of impressions, are not good for the young, and cause them as they grow up to become incapable of enduring fruitful monotony.”
So when the kids shout “are we there yet?” perhaps we can reply “no, but we are teaching you to endure fruitful monotony!” Enjoy!