Sometimes boredom is a feeling lying on top of another emotion that you don’t want to feel – for example, if you are bored at the bedside of a dying loved one. This type of boredom is often a defence against more troubled feelings such as despair. Some of us may think we are bored right now, but that might be a cover for the fear of Covid.
Let’s go back to your bored kids and telling them off for saying they’re bored. I’m sure that if you knew this could make them feel bad about themselves, you would not do it, so it’s important to remember it may have this effect, even if you feel it didn’t do you any harm. I’m not suggesting you become an entertainments officer, but I am saying neither shame them nor try to fix them. What children need is to be kept company when they are having feelings, not fixed.
If your kid is bored, you can empathise and be interested. You can find out what type of boredom it is. Don’t tell them we’re all in the same boat, it won’t help. Remember: connect, don’t correct. Feel with them, rather than deal with them. When they feel understood and kept company by you, then you can get them to brainstorm about what to do. It’s them making the suggestions. Your job isn’t to suggest solutions but to listen and encourage. They may get stuck, and then you can say something like, I have every faith in you that you will come up with something. Sometimes for an idea to surface, it needs time.
Boredom is useful as it is a clue that something needs to change. If we never felt bored, we would not know how to recognise our needs for, say, sustenance, company, connection or adventure.
You could also ask them what the boredom is trying to tell them. Working out what we feel, from that, working out what we want, and from that, going for it – is harder than it sounds.
The cure is likely to be a kind of connection. That could be to another person, to an absorbing activity that creates within us a sort of flow, or to an idea, or it may be a reconnection to oneself and one’s own experience that is needed.