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Dear Katherine: My Kids Complain About Being Bored!

Dear Katherine,

When my two children are home from school, they don’t want to do anything. I try to get them involved in activities or camps (or at the very least encourage them to leave the house with me!) but they outright refuse.
Then they complain that they’re bored! My older daughter, who is 13, calls me a bad mom when I tell her that there’s nothing more I can do.  

What CAN I do?

Sincerely,
Out of Ideas

Out of Ideas, the problem you’re facing is far more common than people care to admit! The pressure to keep children occupied at all times can be incredibly frustrating for parents.

Still, I’m sensing that this issue is less about keeping your daughter entertained and more about her inability or refusal to seek out her own joy. She tells you she’s bored, and then seemingly does nothing to fix it. When you try to guide her to the answer, she gets upset.

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There are two questions to ask yourself that will help you move forward:

1. Is her boredom making her upset, or is it making you upset?

Your daughter’s struggle to entertain herself is a problem for her to navigate. If you take this emotional load on yourself, it will only make things worse. These situations can be cyclical, and your frustration will only compound hers.

Maybe she’s content staying home but senses that you’re frustrated with her making that choice. No matter what’s really going on, it’s important to step back and resist the urge to turn her problem into your problem.

Right now, your thoughts are framed around shame and criticism. Maybe you’re internalizing your daughter’s comment that you’re a bad mom, or you feel responsible for her lack of motivation.
Either way, you’re disempowering yourself, which won’t help your daughter. Take a moment to consider what your needs are and how you can meet them. Focus on filling your cup so that you’re in a better mindset to help your daughter meet her needs. This Needs Assessment is a great tool for figuring out how well your own needs are being met.

2. Why is she leaning on you to make this decision?

Your instinct as a parent is to help your kids through their problems. Occasionally, you probably border on solving the entire issue for them. I see this common parenting mistake with my clients all the time. But here’s the thing. . .

When kids are used to having their parents solve their problems, a sudden refusal to do so can feel like abandonment.

Rest assured, you aren’t abandoning your daughter—and you certainly don’t need to leave her to figure everything out on her own. But instead, you should work on hearing her.

At the age of 13, she’s inundated with new experiences and responsibilities. School is becoming more challenging, friendships are evolving, and she’s probably making more decisions day-to-day than she ever has before. The thought of making one more choice about what to do in her spare time might be pushing her over her capacity.

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Sit with her in that place of discomfort and validate her frustration. Then remind her how capable she is. Tell her you’re confident in her ability to make decisions for herself. Assure her that the choice she ultimately makes isn’t the wrong one, even if she chooses to stay home after school.

I understand the urge to jump in and save your daughter by arranging activities or outings, but if you want to raise an independent child, you have to give her the space to figure out what she really wants to do. The best way to be a supportive parent is to build your child’s confidence in themselves.

Your daughter is more than capable of getting through this rough patch. It may even be a great opportunity for her to learn more about who she is and how to advocate for her needs.

I have utmost faith in both of you.

Love and Blessings,

Katherine

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3xTEDx Speaker, Media Contributor, parenting coach and mom of two. Helping families thrive for over 20 years using the Guidance Approach to Parenting.