By Anna Rayhorn
“I’m bored.” If you gave someone a nickel for every time you heard a child say this, you would lose a lot of money.  Speaking of money, according to the The Surprising Benefits of Boredom, by Dr. Neel Burton, entertainment industry spending topped $2 trillion in 2016. That’s a lot of money spent solely on entertainment.
Burton wrote, “Boredom is so unpleasant that we expend considerable resources on preventing or reducing it.” The website deadline.com states that U.S. home entertainment spending reached $20.5 billion in 2017, so obviously, people are willing to spend some serious cash in order to thwart boredom.
However, boredom may not be as boring as you think. There are many different layers to boredom. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines boredom as “the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest.”  We have all found ourselves stuck in an uncomfortable state of supposedly incurable boredom. But is that a good or a bad thing?
Annabella Martinson (14), an eighth-grader at Bothwell Middle School, has mixed emotions about being bored.
“When I really have nothing to do, being bored makes me more creative, and I have really good ideas,” Martinson said. “I don’t like being bored, though, when I’m supposed to be taking a test in school or waiting for a class to be over because I just have no choice but to sit there and do absolutely nothing.”
Anja McBride (13), an eighth-grader at North Star Academy, has a similar viewpoint when it comes to being bored. She wants the boredom to end.
“I do not like being bored,” McBride said. “I usually get bored when there is nothing to do, and to save myself from continuing to be bored, I usually find something to do, but it depends on what mood I’m in sometimes.”
Dr. Cameron Wilcox, M.D., who works as a psychiatrist at U.P. Health System Marquette, said boredom doesn’t always have to be a negative state of being.
“I do believe it can be a pathway to creativity. I think it can also encourage people to try new things,” Wilcox stated.
Wilcox offered useful advice for parents with frequently bored children.  He suggests that if your child complains about being bored too often, it is important to check that they are not feeling that way because they are sad. Boredom and sadness: two emotions people do not often think of as related.
Boredom has many aspects.  According to the nymetroparents.com article The Truth Behind Your Child’s Constant Boredom, by Dr. Susan Bartell, there are many possible reasons for your child’s constant boredom. She explains that boredom can be a sign of any of the following: learning disabilities, ADHD, other neurological difficulties, depression or overstimulation.
The article states, “Often when a child or teen finds schoolwork overwhelmingly difficult or confusing, they will become disengaged and give up rather than continuing to try. A child who has stopped trying will avoid homework and studying for tests, become distracted in class and appear not to care about school. Neurological issues can be very subtle and can affect even very bright children.”
The article also mentioned boredom as a sign of depression. Similar to what Dr. Wilcox stated, the article said it is common for depressed children to express their sadness as boredom because they are not enjoying their daily activities.  Perhaps next time your child says that he or she is bored, check for signs of upset feelings or lack of enthusiasm. Maybe there has been a recent event that has your child feeling down?
Lastly, the article talks about overstimulation.  With so much access to easy
Entertainment, like smart phones, tablets, lap-tops, video games, streaming movies and YouTube, and the pressure parents feel to provide their children with a constant stream of activities, these experiences can be too much for children. While some kids thrive under this kind of influence, many become dependant upon this constant stimulation, and when they fail to receive it, even for short periods of time, they will develop an uncomfortable feeling of boredom. This is simply because they have never been allowed the chance to nurture their own sources of creativity.  The article states, “The best solution to this type of unenthused behavior is to reduce your child’s reliance on you to provide constant entertainment. Instead, they need to learn how to occupy themselves with what they already have, to use their imagination and to become age-appropriately independent.”
It is really up to parents to find the perfect balance, which is not an easy job. Katy Divine, from Marquette, is the mother of Theo, 6, and Huxley, 4, and she has some experience dealing with the dreaded “I’m bored” whining.
“I usually miss the warning signs of boredom and realize only after a fight has started between the kids. When that happens, I suggest pulling a box of toys out or figuring something out on their own,” Divine said.
Divine isn’t afraid to let her boys turn boredom into something positive.
“Boredom definitely fosters creativity,” Divine said. “Letting the brain mull over ideas is a great way to see where your thoughts will take you. Although, I think most creative people are never actually bored because they are content with their own thoughts and are probably problem-solving and creating as they rest.”
Dr. Wilcox added a personal note about boredom and creativity.
“I have seen my own children, when bored, eventually take up a new activity in order to keep occupied,” he said.
Boredom: so many complex meanings come from this word. What can parents do to see that their child is developing a strong, creative mind? How can you make sure that your child is not being over-stimulated? Dr. Wilcox has a few helpful suggestions for parents.
“When dealing with a child that is bored, a parent can do a number of things:  They can encourage a child with a variety of options of things to do,” Dr. Wilcox said. “They can also let the child figure out their own way to find something that they can do to keep busy. I think that the second way is a good way to teach a child to be creative and also to come up with solutions to problems.”
If you’re not sure what would be best for your own child, just experiment. Try noticing how they react to different prompts; see what kinds of suggestions spark their creativity. Each and every mind is unique in its own thinking process, so sometimes, the best thing you can do for your child is to get to know them a little better.

(Editor’s note: Author Anna Rayhorn, 13, will is a 7th-grade student at Bothwell Middle School in Marquette.)

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