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Newsletter: June 2019

Beating the “I’m Bored” Blues

Here in the U.S., summer vacation is getting started, and many families are eagerly anticipating the change of pace from a hectic school year. That is, of course, until the first “I’m bored! There’s nothing to do!”

Patience, self-reliance and creativity are qualities parents and educators often discuss as must-haves for kids, and all of them are necessary for children to manage boredom. The ability to delay gratification, along with a willingness to explore, experiment and rely on their own ideas and inner resources, can not only help kids get over their day-to-day fits of the boredom blues, but also transfer into greater resourcefulness in later life. But knowing all this doesn’t necessarily help a parent who’s frustrated at hearing “I’m bored!” two days into summer break.

While part of the fun of summer is the break from routine, keeping some sort of schedule can help reduce anxiety and keep the whole family grounded — that’s why we recommend keeping regular family meals on the calendar. Fortunately, family meals can be used to your advantage in beating back some of the boredom. Here’s how.

  • Think of mealtimes as a structured activity. Sure, family dinner is no trip to the water park, but on a regular low-key summer day, it can help bored and restless kids to know that dinner will be happening as scheduled. Getting everyone to the table (or picnic blanket, bench, or wherever else you’re all gathering) to eat, talk and spend time together can break up the late-day boredom and provide a welcome change of scenery.
  • Give kids responsibility for dinner games. One of our team members sometimes challenges her pre-teen sons to come up with new game ideas for family dinner. They don’t always go well (“I’ll tell you a year and region of the world, and you guess the historical ruler!” was a bit of a flop), but putting the responsibility in their hands serves double duty: It gives the kids something to think about earlier in the day when they’re feeling restless, and makes the dinner table a more enjoyable place to be.
  • Put family members in charge of conversation topics. Particularly with older kids and teens, asking them to come to dinner with an interesting question, news article, or topic they want to share can be an effective way to help them engage in family mealtimes — as well as give them a mini-project to consider while they’re scrolling their screens. If open-ended requests don’t work well for your family, try giving a topic they can expand on: “We were thinking of trying to make a list of day trips we can tackle over the next few months. Why don’t you start coming up with a list and bring it to dinner tonight so we can all talk about it?”
  • Extend their interests with mealtime creativity. Pay attention to what they’re into this summer. What are they reading or watching? Did they learn something new at a summer camp, or have they been talking about a particular dream vacation destination? See if they can help you come up with ways to weave those interests into dinner. You might have them research recipes and help you prepare foods from a specific region or time period, decorate your dining space and serve a menu straight out of a favorite book or movie, re-create recipes from a cooking show they’re into, or even show up to dinner as whomever their latest idol happens to be and spend the whole meal in character. The key here is to have the kids do the planning and most of the work, so they’re busy with a cool project that gets unveiled to the whole family at mealtime — not making extra work for you!
  • Make Summer the season for dinner parties. You don’t have to invite a horde of people and serve something fancy; just choose a few nights (or maybe one meal each week, like every Friday dinner or Sunday brunch) when you let the kids choose someone to invite to share a meal with you. Give them planning control — who will they invite? What would they like to serve? What groceries will you need to have on hand? Do they want to create special decorations or plan a fun activity? — and watch their vision take shape.

No matter when, where and what your family dinner includes this summer, try some of these tips to help mealtimes become part of your tried-and-true boredom busting strategy.

Family of the Month

Meet the Sigler family! This foursome from Ohio is always looking for a way to bring laughter to the dinner table, no matter what else is competing for their attention.

Real Family Dinner Projects: The Sigler Family

Food

As the weather heats up, these chicken tortas are an easy low-cook meal the kids can make for dinner guests. Try using a store-bought rotisserie chicken for an even faster meal!

Chicken Tortas

Fun

Let restless kids turn trash into treasure with this recycled art idea!

Kitchen Art

Conversation

If you’re celebrating Dads or father figures later this month, try these conversation starters devoted to the man of the hour.