5 Ways to Be Bored This Summer and Why You Can’t Ignore Them

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Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/6DLBJ9

Over the last few years, Thomas Goetz and his research team in Konstanz, Germany identified five different types of boredom and reached the conclusion that students tend to experience just one type over the course of their lifetimes. Interestingly enough, Goetz suggested that boredom was by far the most intense and most common emotion experienced by students as well.

As it turns out, boredom leaves us feeling far more uncomfortable than any other emotion. It’s no small wonder then that many parents invest great time, energy, and cash in the battle against it.

Rather than debating the benefits and drawbacks of boredom or scrambling to alleviate anyone’s pain, you might want to chew on these questions a bit. You could also invite the bored people you know best to illuminate their experiences for your collective benefit:

  • What are the best ways to be bored, and when is boredom a blessing?
  • When should boredom alert us to potential problems, and what can we do when we notice these red flags?

Goetz’s work can inform your thinking about boredom and your response to it as well. Here are the five ways your kids might be bored this summer and two red flags that you can’t ignore.

The Five Types of Boredom

1. Indifferent boredom is actually quite pleasant. Lulled into a state of relaxation and calm, those who experience indifferent boredom tend to like the experience. It’s what televisions were made for.

2. Calibrating boredom is much like daydreaming. Those who experience it let their minds wander, but the journey is unproductive. They may think of new ideas, but they lack the motivation to act on any of them. These leaves us feeling frustrated.

3. Searching boredom leads to positive and negative risk-taking. This is the type of boredom that inspires someone to text an ex in the middle of the night and say things they live to regret. It’s also the type of boredom that inspires creativity and the seeking of solutions.

4. Reactant boredom is the most uncomfortable form of boredom, often causing those who experience it to compromise relationships in their efforts to flee. This is the type of boredom that prompts kids to run away from home in search of some mythical place that is so much better than the one they left. It’s also the type of boredom that inspires kids to drop out of school.

5. Apathetic boredom was identified unexpectedly and is the one type of boredom that raises red flags for depression. This type of boredom is accompanied by feelings of despair, hopelessness, and helplessness. Left unattended, apathetic boredom can alter the trajectory of any young person’s life, limiting their options and stripping them of the power they will need to achieve long-term fulfillment.

I was surprised to learn that while some types of boredom may inspire inventiveness and promote problem solving, others can actually compromise your health and threaten the well-being of those that you care about. Self-awareness is critical when it comes to dealing with boredom, and parents need to know how to distinguish garden variety boredom from reactant or apathetic boredom, which should raise red flags.

My friend, parent and middle school teacher Amber Chandler, shared her thoughts on boredom recently, taking a stand against becoming her kids’ number one source for entertainment this summer.

Her lighthearted tone and familiar references to summer living in the 70’s and 80’s made me smile. Goetz’s very serious research validates her position too, but not in the way that I expected it would when I began exploring his findings.

When parents step in to alleviate boredom without considering its form, they might dampen its potentially powerful side effects–especially creativity and problem solving. Here’s something worth noting further, though: when we rush to entertain our kids, we darken dangerous corners that boredom often serves to brighten–particularly those created by depression.

The next time one of my daughters tells me they are bored this summer, I may direct them to this post and ask them to tell me what kind of boredom they believe they are experiencing. Maybe I’ll invite them to wonder about boredom with me a bit before I reach for my wallet, my keys, or my bucket list of brilliant ways to fill these summer months.

Goetz leaves us with much to consider. For instance, I wonder if the way we experience boredom is linked to our personalities, and if one form tends to dominate our lives. I also wonder if this happens by way of nature or nurture.

What do you think?

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A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at Angelastockman.com.

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