I remember, growing up, those horrible times when I was faced with the awful realization that I.............well............I had NOTHING TO DO. As a child, this was worse than almost anything, outside of going to the dentist. What made it worse was that I unfailingly had to keep this burden to myself. I mean, I couldn’t rely on my parents for relief. Whenever I would attempt to come to them for sympathy about such a depressing situation, they would always say something to the effect of, “well, if you’re bored, clean your room” or “I can find something for you to do”. The latter statement usually meant something abominably worse, like raking leaves or pulling weeds in the garden. What was productive about that? They obviously did not understand my predicament. KIDS AREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE BORED! Didn’t they know that? Didn’t that stipulation come in the handbook? Were they really that callous? To a child, there is nothing worse than being bored. Or is there?

In society today, kids rarely have time to be bored. They have homework, sports practice, extended day, video games, TV shows galore, dance lessons, and a plethora of other activities vying for their attention. Here in Central Florida, we must also remember that it takes time to drive to any of these activities and so they must carry their Game Boys with them, lest they be bored during the drive. (GASP!)

The problem in our society is not that kids are bored as much as it is that they are over stimulated. I mean, c’mon.........kids are exposed to ipods, the internet, chat rooms, thousands of channels on cable, video games, and various other gadgets. Kids today are exposed to more information by the time they are 18 than their parents have been exposed to their entire lives. Plus, kids are programmed that leisure time or “down” time is bad; it is evil; and they should stay away from it. Kids believe they should fill every second of every day with stimulating activities. The problem is that this leads to huge amounts of stress.

Stress is nothing more than an over stimulation of the adrenaline system. Our bodies are not meant to live in that state for long periods of time. Yet, many kids are constantly in a state of stress. This type of over stimulation and stress can lead to many problems for kids:

  • A shorter attention span: if it’s not visually stimulating, they don’t pay attention
  • Obesity: kids are less active and stress produces cortisol in the system which brings fat to the mid-section.
  • Depression: suicide rates in teens have tripled in the past 40 years
  • Early onset diabetes
  • Higher cholesterol in children
  • Violence is increasing among children and teen.
  • Lower immune systems: stress decreases the body’s ability to fight infection

The truth is that anxiety disorders seen in children are ever-increasing and seem to be manifesting themselves at earlier ages. Our kids are stressed out! So what can a parent do?

1. Limit the time you allow your children to spend playing video games, watching tv, or being on the computer. These are all good things but too much of it puts the body in a constant state of stress. Set healthy and fair limits on these activities. I know it won’t be popular but setting boundaries will be good for your child’s brain.

2. Force your children outdoors. Today’s kids need exercise more than ever before. Studies show that outdoor exercise can help kids to get rid of excess stress and can even help them in focusing on things like homework or reading.

3. Allow your kids time to be bored! This is not evil. Being bored forces children to use their imagination. It also gives their body a chance to slow down and re-energize. In fact, teach your kids how to relax.

4. Make sure they get enough sleep. Kids that stay up late and get up early have a harder time handling the stressors of life. Enforce a healthy bedtime.

5. Rethink your menu: If kids are eating too much sugars and simple carbs, it will negatively affect their immune system, hinder their sleeping, and deprive them of the energy they need to excel.

I know these tips will not be easy to incorporate in many homes. I’m aware of that. I have kids myself. I know it’s hard. But, in the long run, trying to change the atmosphere of your home from a zoo to a safe haven will dramatically help your kids in the long run. Be strong, take heart, and remember..........(say it with me).........it’s OKAY to be bored.

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About the Author: Aaron Welch is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor at the LifeWorks Group, Inc. in Winter Park, Florida. He has devoted his life to reaching out and helping people grow and mature through difficult life situations. Whether it has been through clinical counseling, pastoral ministry, youth camps and conventions, public speaking, leadership training, educational instruction, athletic coaching or small group ministry, Aaron has over eighteen years of experience in assisting people through life struggles and personal growth. His genuine love for people and his outgoing personality combine to create a safe and caring environment for putting the pieces of life back together. To learn more about the LifeWorks Group, Inc. please visit, www.LifeWorksGroup.org.

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