Over the past week, I’ve been counseling kids and families over Zoom. It’s been a strange phenomenon to use technology to counsel, but certainly one I’m grateful for. And, to be honest, as I began the process in the midst of America’s COVID-19 quarantine, I thought I would hear something quite different from the words I’m hearing.
For my sessions with seven and eight-year-olds, I expected to hear a lot about anxiety. It’s what most seven and eight-year-olds are typically talking about it my office. In fact, one in four kids are battling anxiety today, with girls twice as likely—a statistic I wrote about in my book, Raising Worry-Free Girls. But, as their little faces have popped up on my iPad, these girls have had wider smiles than I’ve seen in my office. They’ve described at length the fun they’ve had baking with their moms and going for walks with their dads. They’ve talked about how the books they’ve read and the paintings they’ve painted. They’re enjoying their time with you.
The middle schoolers have been singing a different tune. They’ve been using that word we all love, “bored.” They’ve talked about missing friends and missing favorite teachers. They’ve talked about being tired already of the family game nights and group exercise. Much as we would expect, these early adolescents are craving time with their all-important peers—and FaceTime just isn’t cutting it.
From high schoolers, I’ve heard some talk about the gratitude of reprieve. Their lives have been moving so fast, that they’re enjoying a break in their schedules. They’re spending more time in their rooms, more time in their cars (I’m hearing LOTS of high schoolers talk about just driving around to get out of the house), and more time with their families than they typically do. But, they’re starting to think about prom—and graduation—and spring events that they’ve been looking forward to throughout the bleaker months of winter. They’re not bored yet, but they’re sure anticipating the boredom coming.
You may have kids in your house in different ages and stages and all falling somewhere along the spectrum of boredom as they navigate their new normal. “I’m bored!” may not be something I’m hearing as much as I thought from the kids I counsel, but you may be hearing it over and over again, day in and day out. So how should parents respond when they are getting a little stir crazy themselves?
How can you help? Melissa has been talking lots about the idea of purpose for kids today. Rather than focusing on what they don’t have and can’t do, we can help them focus on what they can do. In fact, Daystar has started a Daily Dose of Daystar post where kids and families are sharing ideas of what they’re doing during this time at home. It’s everything from games to family TikToks to painting each other’s faces. And a whole lot in between.
Now is a great time to get creative. You know all those things you’ve always wanted to do but didn’t have time to do? Now’s the time to do them! And encourage your kids to do them. Help your kids find purpose while they are stuck at home. Trying something new. Reaching out to someone who needs encouragement. Encourage your kids to set goals. Nothing breeds boredom like a lack of direction and purpose. Having something to work towards will put a spring in their step!
How can your family have purpose during this time? What can you do to give to someone else in need? Another family? Again, purpose is one of the best antidotes to boredom there is. Make sure to let your kids have a voice—not just in your family’s purpose, but in your activities too. Let each child plan something fun per day. Let them alternate the movie and game choices, as well as the meals. And let them help, too. Helping with meals and chores brings a sense of purpose.
It is our belief that this time of quarantine will be redemptive in the lives of so many of us. God is using it right now as a reset. To help remind us of who we want to be. Of what we want our time to look like together and what we don’t want it to look like. Ask your kids those kinds of questions, too. And enjoy this season of boredom and purpose together—TOGETHER being the very most important word.
SISSY GOFF, M.Ed., LPC-MHSP is the Director of Child and Adolescent Counseling at Daystar Counseling Ministries in Nashville, Tennessee, where she works alongside her counseling assistant/pet therapist, Lucy the Havanese. Since 1993, she has been helping girls and their parents find confidence in who they are and hope in who God is making them to be, both as individuals and families. Sissy is a sought-after speaker for parenting events and the author of eleven books, including the bestselling Raising Worry-Free Girls and Braver, Stronger, Smarter (for elementary-aged girls). Sissy is a regular contributor to various podcasts and publications including FoxNews.com, as well as her own podcast Raising Boys and Girls. You can find more information and resources at Raising Boys and Girls.