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Let Those Kids Chill

June 01, 2011

It's summer — the time for kids to slow down, recharge their batteries, enjoy a bit of boredom.

Boredom? Rather than something to be avoided at all costs, try thinking of boredom as the prelude to creativity. When children sit around with nothing particular to do — "Mom, I'm bored!" — and Mom resists the impulse to rescue them, they're challenged to use their imagination and find ways to creatively pass the time. What better opportunity than summer to exercise this important capacity?

But this can only happen if we're committed to reducing the hectic pace of sports and extracurriculars and homework and not enough sleep. For too many of our sons and daughters, the school year creates a measure of stress that's easy to minimize or completely overlook (especially when it mirrors the over-extended and fast-paced lives we ourselves lead). Findings from the American Psychological Association's 2010 "Stress in America" survey, reported in the Monitor on Psychology (June, 2011), reveal the toll stress takes on children: "Almost a third of children reported that in the last month they had experienced a physical health symptom often associated with stress, such as headaches, stomach aches or trouble falling or staying asleep."

In addition to our kids' stress, the APA survey revealed what loving parents tend to deny: the significant impact of mom and dad's stress on youth's well being. In the survey, 86% of kids reported that their parents' stress level really does impact them. It's a particular problem for overweight children, who have been found to worry more than normal-weight children and appear more susceptible to the impact of their parents' stress levels.

Of course summer should be a time for activity and adventure, but let it also be a chance for kids to slow their pace, to daydream out the window, to wrestle wonderfully with boredom, and to exchange the customary hectic pace for a few months of deep breaths and a recharging of batteries.