“I’m Bored”–What Is Your Child Really Saying?

Time passing

What parent hasn’t heard the “I’m bored” complaint from their child or adolescent?  Sometimes the context of the complaint makes sense, such as a long car ride or unwanted activity.  But often there is more behind these two simple words.  Here are some of the things that are trying to be conveyed when you hear “I’m bored.”

I Want to Talk, but I Don’t Know How to Start the Conversation

This one is common. Kids and teens are still learning how to engage with other people, and often, they just don’t know how to start a discussion. Instead of ignoring a bored child or teen or changing the subject, turn the conversation around by asking open ended questions like:

  • How are you doing?
  • How are your friends doing?
  • What have you been up to?
  • Did you have something you wanted to do today?
  • What are some things you feel grateful for today?
  • Does boredom feel bad? Why do you think you’re uncomfortable with boredom?
  • What would you like to do today to make it fun or meaningful?

By being curious about their experiences, and giving them a platform for self-expression, your child will have the opportunity to better understand their feelings and use problem solving skills.

I am not Happy in School

Kids who are complaining that they’re bored, especially if they claim that school is boring, may need a challenge or may be struggling with their work. Ask them how their days have been in school, help them focus on what they are enjoying, and make sure that they are connecting with peers. If necessary, talk to their teachers about changing their academic plan, sign them up for an extracurricular, and encourage them to identify the aspects in school that they enjoy.

I’m Ready for More Responsibility

Children or teen rarely come out and ask for more responsibility, but your bored child may be ready to do more. By giving them more to do, they have opportunities to feel engaged, grow, and be productive. Have them help you by doing chores around the house, caring for siblings, or finding a part time job. A little more responsibility is a great cure for boredom.

I Need Some Help, but I Don’t Know How to Ask

Sometimes, a child or teen who frequently complains that they’re bored may need a little extra help. If you’ve tried to engage with them in a variety of ways and they’re still complaining of boredom, consider giving them the opportunity to talk with someone who’s an expert in translating, “I’m bored” into all its many meanings. At Calabasas Child & Adolescent Psychology, we offer therapy services to help young people find new ways of expressing themselves, other than just saying they’re bored, and we can help parents understand how to interpret their child’s subtle hints and help them engage.

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