When Your Tween Is Bored

Even if you don’t want to practice “intentional boredom,” here are several boredom-busting, mood-boosting tactics from the experts.

When tweens complain, instead of telling them what to do, share your experience and let them decide, Dr. Eastwood suggests. So say, “when I feel bored, what worked for me was to do a few minutes of deep breathing to get centered.” They may roll their eyes, but they can’t argue, because you aren’t dictating their actions.

Encouraging your tween to go for activities that help with healthy “flow” — when you are immersed in something to the point you lose track of time — can help, Dr. Danckert says. So reading a good book, making a vision board, journaling with daily prompts, sketching, or knitting works. Aside from flow, to beat boredom, “an activity should challenge you, while allowing you to problem-solve within your abilities (like playing chess or a scavenger hunt),” says Dr. Danckert. What doesn’t work: passive entertainment like binge watching YouTube or Netflix.

Boredom is associated with a sense of time passing slower than normal. “Part of what we are taking away during the pandemic is the looking-forward-to-the-future aspect of life, in the form of trips or camp,” Ms. Mann says. So adding something new to the schedule that brings in mystery, or discovery — like doing an impromptu TikTok dance competition, eating outdoors for a change, or learning a new game like Pickleball — can provide a positive rush to the brain.

When tweens are being creative (drawing, doing computer art, writing rap songs), Ms. Mann suggests you don’t attach pressure to the outcome. “If your tween is creating a board game, writing a poem or painting and it doesn’t come out perfect, that is fine. Teach tweens to enjoy the process rather than attach importance to the final product.”

Dr. Wendy Wood, a psychologist and author of “Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick,” says that to help our tweens avoid acting out negatively in response to boredom (like binge-eating junk food or screen surfing), parents should organize their environments to encourage positive behavior. So hide away the junk food, but leave out apples. Make screens less accessible by asking them to either keep the computer out of the bedroom and in the public areas of the house, or have them use your computer, so you can monitor them.

On the flip side, make it easy for them to do things you want them to do, Dr. Wood suggests. Keep bike tires filled up. Have a Frisbee handy or a basketball available to shoot hoops. Have game nights. Keep books around that they would like to read.

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