Boredom? Boredom. According to an American study cited by the New York Times in 2018, regardless of education, income or race, parents have always believed (and feared) that “children who are bored should be enrolled in extracurricular activities.” In the U.S., boredom is not contemplated; in fact there is a kind of cultural revulsion and stigma towards it.
So children, between various activities, summer camps, babysitting, grandparenting and last-minute alternative activities never have a moment’s respite. Always busy. Today the same US newspaper writes that “only boring people get bored, as the saying goes.” And it revives the idea that boredom is ” normal, natural and healthy,” as explained by Erin Westgate, professor of psychology at the University of Florida, whose research focuses on what boredom is, how people experience it and what happens when they experience it.
“Protecting children from feeling bored is just as wrong as protecting them from feeling sad, frustrated or angry,” argues Westgate, who argues that instead, taken in small doses, boredom can provide a valuable learning opportunity, stimulating creativity and problem-solving, motivating children to seek out activities that are more meaningful to them.
Here then, below, is a small vademecum on boredom as an “emotion,” for example. Because it “says that what you are doing at that moment is not working.” It usually means that what is being taken care of is either too easy or, on the contrary, too difficult or, simply does not make sense. One option parents have to help their children is to teach them “how to handle boredom” and to distinguish, between feeling “sad” or more simply “listless.” A technique, this one, that many child development experts use to help children get clarity in their feelings. Not least because, often, children say “I’m bored” only because they’re lonely or clamoring for attention, while adults, by contrast, “have a tendency to treat boredom as a sign of distress or a plea for help,” explains Katie Hurley, who holds a doctorate in social work, in turn.