WHY BOREDOM IS GOOD FOR YOUR CHILD
Most parents have a difficult time to deal with their child being bored. We feel it is our responsibility to keep our child entertained at all times and might even feel guilty if we do not respond to our child’s need to be busy. When a child starts to get bored and complains about it, our natural tendency is to solve her problem right away. Structured activities and technological entertainment are the most common solutions. However, studies have shown multiple benefits to the boredom state.
Here are a few benefits:
1. Boredom improves creativity. When a child is given the opportunity to have unstructured time, she is free to explore her inner and outer worlds, which is the beginning of creativity. Imagining, inventing, and creating are essential to the development of a healthy child. Building a fort in the backyard, make a monster from clay, or writing a short story or song are activities leading to the passions that make life meaningful.
2. Boredom is beneficial to your child’s psychological well-being. After some minor complaining, your child will find something interesting to do. Self-directed play is constructive because play is a child’s work. It is how your child works out emotions and experiences she has had. When a child plays freely, she learns how to work collaboratively, share, negotiate, resolve conflicts, and stand her for herself. In free play, the child has control and practice asserting it.
3. Boredom teaches how to manage time. One of the biggest challenge as an adult is to learn to manage time well. So, a child needs unstructured time to learn how to use it. Her experience will teach her to manage time in her best interest.
So, next time your child tells you she is bored, how can you respond?
You need to take into consideration her question seriously and focus on your child for a few minutes. Even though it is your child’s job to figure out what to do, you are here to help her brainstorm ideas with her. You may want to create a Boredom Jam filled with ideas written on pieces of paper. You and your child can both contribute to write the ideas. Then, when your child says she is bored, she can pick three pieces of paper from the jar and choose an activity to do.
Here are a few ideas for a Boredom Jar: make a dollhouse out of cardboard, make a birthday card for the next person you know is having a birthday, put on some music and dance, get a magnet and make a list of everything that is magnetized in your house, make a zoo for the stuffed animals, make an obstacle course, have a water balloon fight (outside!),…
Instead of looking at boredom as an issue, let’s see it as an opportunity for your child to be creative, to learn to manage time, and to benefit her psychological well-being. Every child could take advantage of being bored as this could be the beginning of an exploration of her inner and outer worlds.
HOW TO DEAL EFFECTIVELY WITH HOMEWORK AND BEDTIME ROUTINE
Homework and bedtime routine are among the most difficult times that a family can experience. In some families, screaming, bickering, and crying happen daily. When everyone is coming home tired and cranky, homework and getting ready for bed can be truly challenging and nerve-wracking. However, some thoughtful and consistent changes can make a difference for everyone.
Here are a few tips to lower the stress at home in the evening:
1. Hold a family meeting. Your goal is to set expectations and establish rules so that homework and bedtime routine are handled with as little stress as possible. Be precise about what your child should do once she gets back from school. Ask about her opinion. If you make collaborative decisions with your child, she will be more likely to follow the new rules. If your child complains about homework, empathize with her, but remind her that it needs to be done. Working together should alleviate her burden.
2. Allow play time. When your child comes home after school, she needs time to decompress. Discuss with her the amount of time that she needs to refuel her energy before starting homework. She may also need a snack. Pick healthy food items and stick to them. It is important to respect the agreed time limit so that your child knows when to start her homework.
3. Divide homework into doable sections. It is usually helpful to determine what your child wants to start on first, what she wishes to work on after dinner or chores, and if necessary, what to finish up later in the evening. Your child may need a break in between assignments. Younger children may need to set a timer (probably around 15 minutes). When it goes off, your child needs to resume her homework. Older children can set their own breaks and go back to work once the break is over.
4. Teach your child to be organized. Once homework is completed, it should go into backpacks along with school books. Signed permission slips, snacks, water bottles, sport/gym gear should be ready for the following day. Starting at around 8, your child can create her own checklist that will help her get organized in the evening and double check in the morning.
5. Establish bedtime and “Get ready” time. Devise a nighttime plan to which everyone should adhere on a school night. This includes a bedtime and a set time to get ready before your child is in bed. On one hand, your child needs enough time so that she will not feel rushed. On the other hand, she should not have too much time to get herself distracted. Picking out clothes for the following day can be part of your child’s routine; it may prevent hassles in the morning.
Having a family evening plan is a key to reducing the stress and rush of most school evenings. Some nights, it will be impossible to follow it, but having a plan that is realistic and reliable will make a noticeable difference in your family life. Remember that the plan is not set in stone and can be revised at any time by all members of the family.
HOW TO HANDLE LYING WITH YOUR CHILD AND YOUR TEEN
Depending on your child’s age, her lies do not have the same meaning. So, knowing the kind of untruths your child tells at each age, and why, can help you guide her to understand the values of honesty that are appropriate for her age.
A preschooler usually lies simply because it is the age of invisible friends, horned monsters, and talking rainbows. At this age, children make up big whopping stories as a way of being creative and to begin to figure out their world.
Schoolkids lie for very specific reasons. Most of the time, it is to get out of trouble. For instance, your child may lie because she broke a house rule or did not do her homework. In this kind of case, lying is a way of dealing with a problem or a conflict that your child does not know how to handle differently. Your child may also lie to avoid hurting other’s feelings. If your child says to her grandma “I really like your present” when she does not, she says this to not hurt her grandma’s feelings. From her perspective, she has a justifiable reason.
Tweens: Lying is often used to establish identity and to connect with peers, even if that identity is false. Lying to her peers about she says or does may make her feel more impressive. At this age, your child is more likely to respond to peer pressure.
Here are a few tips about how to deal with lying:
1. Take time to regroup. Oftentimes, when you catch your child lying, you experience a flood of emotions ranging from anger to disappointment to betrayal. Take some time to calm down as responding while being upset will not be effective.
2. Do not lecture your child. This is usually parents’ first reaction. However, this technique is quite ineffective and, most of the time, counterproductive. If you start lecturing your child about lying, your child’s reaction is to tune out. She is no longer listening and nothing will change. Instead, you want to identify what triggered the lie and state you are concerned about it.
3. Keep the door open. Since lying is often a way for children to solve their problems, make sure your child knows that you are willing to hear what is going on with her. Let her know that you are interested in listening to what happens at school and with her friends. When a healthy communication has been established between your child and yourself, then it is easier for her to talk to you when something goes wrong. Creating a safe environment in which your child feels heard and understood is the key.
4. Focus on the issue the lie is about. If your child lied about his homework and got a failing grade, encourage her to see that lying makes things worse. Instead, try to find a way to help her solve her issue with homework. Ask her if this is a recurrent problem she has, in a specific subject,…Then, brainstorm with your child ideas about how to solve her problem. Show her that you understand her issue and support her in finding a solution that truly works for her.
5. Rebuild trust. Explain to her that rebuilding trust after it has been broken is a process that will take time. Keep your focus on helping your child learn more effective ways to deal with her difficulties. Praise her when you notice she handles things in healthy ways. Trust will be rebuilt when your child can show you she can follow rules even if she does not like them. With better choices comes more independence.
When you catch your child in a lie, it’s natural to feel betrayed, hurt, angry and frustrated. But here’s the truth: lying is normal. It’s wrong, but it’s normal. It is your role as parents to teach your child how to solve those problems in more constructive ways.
HOW TO HANDLE BACK-TO-SCHOOL EMOTIONS
The end of summer and the beginning of a new school year can be a stressful time for parents and children. With our busy lives, it is easy to overlook our children’s emotions such as anxiety and nervousness when school begins. Whether preschool, elementary school, middle school, or high school, newness is experienced with excitement and anxiety. Regardless of the child’s age, the questions seem similar.
Will I be accepted or rejected?
What will my teacher(s) be like?
Will I feel lost in my surroundings or enjoy the adventure?
Will I be challenged in a good way or too much?
Will I get good grades?
As parents, our role is to help our children develop resilience, learn coping skills, and encourage them to express and share their feelings about returning to school.
Here are a few tips that can help your child deal with her back-to-school emotions:
1. Implementing consistency and routines that involve your child’s ideas. The more your child participates in the planning, the better she will feel. For instance, ask her what kind of snacks she would like to have at school and then shop together.
2. Getting back to basics. Allow plenty of time of sleep and make sure that every day includes plenty of down time as well. Provide balanced meals and nutritious snacks that will help your child to refuel her energy.
3. Listening to your child’s questions. When faced with a question, work collaboratively with your child. Questions may be “What if I forget my lunch?” or “What if I get off at the wrong bus top?”. The question about the forgotten lunch can be dealt by adding additional food items in the backpack or by calling the school to see if there is a forgotten lunch protocol in place.
4. Showing empathy toward your child. For instance, if your child expresses worry about not having enough friends, do not reply “Don’t worry about it!” or “Everything will be ok!”. These generic statements rarely provide reassurance. Instead, acknowledge your child’s feeling by saying “It sounds like you are worried about being alone at school.” Then, have a conversation with your child about how to make friends. Ask her about her own ideas and share yours as well.
5. Role-playing. Gaining mastery over worries will incite your child take control of worrisome situations. Have your child create a list of school-related worries and act out different ways to solve the problems. Encourage your child to try out two or three solutions per problem so that they always have a back-up plan.
While it is perfectly natural to experience anxiety and nervousness at the beginning of the school year, anticipating your child’s needs, planning ahead, and taking the time to talk about feelings and worries as a family will help your child adjust to the new school year.
PROS AND CONS OF 4 DIFFERENT PARENTING STYLES
Most parents want to promote the well-being of their children so that they can flourish, have good moral, and intellectual character. However, parents wonder how to instill these values and skills into their children. Parenting styles usually fall into 4 categories called authoritarian, permissive, uninvolved, and authoritative. Let’s explore each of these styles.
1. The Authoritarian style. Authoritarian parents are controlling and very strict. They often have unrealistic expectations for their children and require absolute obedience. These parents are high-demanding, but not very responsive. The child will therefore not develop a strong bond with his parents as he fears them. As a result, studies show that children of authoritarian children tend to be timid, have low self-esteem, and lack spontaneity.
2. The Permissive style. Permissive parents, while warm and accepting, make few demands on their children. They have a tendency to be lenient, tend to avoid confrontation, and may worry about thwarting their child creativity. So, they tend to give their children what they want. Some try to compensate for what they did not have themselves as a child: freedom and/or material goods. In return, such parents may implicitly hope for low demand from their children. The children of permissive parents may come to feel entitled to privileges and material goods.
3. The Uninvolved style. The uninvolved parent demands nothing and gives almost nothing in return, except almost absolute freedom. The most frequent explicit and implicit message is “Whatever”. At its worst, it can verge into neglect. By their indifference or inability to deal with their children, uninvolved parents often lead their children to have a lifetime of havoc.
4. The Authoritative style. While retaining authority and control, these parents are warm and communicative. They seek a balance between the wants/needs of their children and their own demands. They use a collaborative approach in which all parties are heard and valued. The goal is to find the best solution for everyone: it is the win-win situation. The parents are demanding, responsive, and assertive, yet not intrusive or restrictive.
Research shows that authoritative parenting balances clear, high parental demands with emotional responsiveness and recognition of the child’s autonomy. The child of authoritative parents typically does well in school, develops good social skills, and avoids problem behaviors.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.