By Georgia Smith, MA
When my three children were young, I would think about the upcoming summer and what activities we could do to prevent them from being bored.
The truth is, summer boredom is not all bad! Psychologically, if a child is not bored and always given activities, they may never know their likes and dislikes. Children need to experience a bit of boredom in order to venture out and realize what is enjoyable to them. Being entertained all summer could be wasting their creativity and exploration. Entertaining them constantly will also cause parents to burn out before the summer is over. Parents or caregivers should provide options for children to choose from. It is also healthy for children to have balance in their activities where they are not constant “fun” consumers, but are also building responsibility in doing chores, with rewards, and volunteering to help others.
Summer is an opportunity to reconnect with your loved ones through “family night.” This night can be playing games, eating out, movies, park activities, bike rides, or walks together. View summer as a perfect opportunity to reconnect and grow together, making memories of a lifetime. Family vacations always give place to new and enjoyable fun as well as enjoying home activities.
Balance between giving back to others through volunteer work, family time together, individual activities, part-time work for adolescents, and quiet moments can turn summer boredom into “good times.” Here are some ideas:
*Younger children need structure, but they also need creative, spontaneous free time. Consider making a creative play area consisting of: painting, an indoor sand tray, puzzles, chalkboard, etc.
*Chore chart with rewards for chores accomplished during the week. Simple rewards work great: coins for a piggy bank or a dollar for a week’s work. Also, children love grab bags where they pick something from the bag for the week.
*Volunteer work for younger children (ages 7 to 11) may consist of helping a neighbor plant flowers, walking a neighbor’s dog, watering a neighbor’s plants, or helping another sibling with their chores (this helps build the idea of teamwork). Make a list of possible options and allow them to choose an option. Volunteer work fosters the unselfish idea of helping others and giving. It helps them become more “others” focused than “I” focused.
Older Children and Adolescents
*Spending time with friends, swimming, watching movies, and being active on social media are the typical activities that most adolescents enjoy. It would be a great idea for you and your adolescent or young person to formulate some ideas that are not the typical fun things to do. Maybe this summer could be the time to learn something new like playing a musical instrument, cooking, building a project together, painting, or drawing. Think beyond the norm and be creative, providing them with some healthy options to choose from.
*Chores with rewards or a part-time job are a great opportunity for an adolescent to learn responsibility and dependability. Maybe you could cancel the lawn service for the summer and have your teenage son provide the service. It would be a great first job. Be sure to reward him.
*Volunteer work for older children and adolescents is so important in developing a better understanding for the needs of others around us. It encourages the healthy idea of being unselfish and giving. A few community service organizations for a young person to volunteer at are:
Local SPCA Animal Shelter
Local YMCA to help with children’s camps and activities
Local church camps as a children’s counselor
City food pantry for the homeless
The above ideas are a place to begin. Remember balance between play, family time, chores, work, and volunteering can turn a bored summer into “good times” memories. Being creative in making your children’s summer a time to remember without you doing all the work and getting burned out is worth the effort of implementing new ideas with balance.
Georgia Smith is in private practice as a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Texas providing counseling for children, adolescents, adults, and marriage and family. She is also an author of two books and a public speaker. Georgia may be reached at 469-855-0808 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org. www.counselingbygeorgia.com