Boredom is not nirvana for teenagers

Wikipedia defines boredom as an emotional or psychological state experienced when an individual is left without anything in particular to do, is not interested in his or her surroundings, or feels that a day or period is dull or tedious.

If you type ‘boredom and kids’ into Google you are hit with a series of articles about why boredom is essential to the development of creative thinking and problem solving.

Here is a quote that comes up a lot:

‘Children need to sit in their own boredom for the world to become quiet enough that they can hear themselves’– Dr Vanessa Lapointe

Or you see quotes like this:

‘Boredom is magical’

‘Boredom is the elixir of creativity and passion’

‘Boredom is the pathway to drive and ambition’

Perhaps this is more relevant for younger kids and I completely agree that creative play is really important.  However, I don’t think claiming that boredom should be a target state for teenagers makes sense, and it doesn’t resonate with my recollection of what it felt like to be bored as a teenager, or what I observe in my teenagers.

For me boredom meant lying around after school either watching TV or scrounging food from the kitchen. My boredom didn’t propel me to do anything like build a fort in the backyard, practice my guitar or take up a creative pursuit. My love of earning money, and the various jobs I managed to get was the thing that got me to snap out of my boredom vortex.

Obviously, the world my teenagers exist in is very different from my experience, but we shouldn’t assume that because they are spending time gaming or watching videos that they aren’t bored as well. Taking screens away when they are hanging out at home is an option, but I don’t believe it would create a situation where the kids started creative play/thinking.

My view is the best thing you can do to get teenagers thinking creatively is to get them – and you - outside physical or mental comfort zones once in a while.  We are all guilty of sticking to comfortable routines but when we push outside of them good things usually (!) happen. How about taking turns to design a day / weekend / holiday activity with both parties agreeing to do whatever the other one nominates? You might just find yourself having to ride a horse along a beach or participating in a flash mob.

We have taken the approach of family members taking turns to choose where we go on holiday. Because of that rule we are about to head off to Madagascar (daughters choice) which I am sure will be challenging in lots of ways but it’s also exciting. There will be many things that won’t go smoothly but you tend not to remember the stuff that goes to plan so much.

My message is that boredom at home isn’t some sort of target state you should be aiming for as a long-term strategy – get out and do some stuff and see where things take you.

This link has lots of ideas for things to do – some lame, some great! Enjoy