Marussia asks: What should be done about a 6-year old boy (my son) who says he is often bored? Yesterday we were having a walk at a place where two his peers were playing football. My son didn’t approach them till one of their mothers invited him to take part in the game. My husband says we shouldn’t force him to play with other kids or invent some games for him – he is big enough to realize that if he wants to have fun he should do it himself. What do you think?
Hi Marussia –
When kids say they’re bored, it usually means one of two things. First, that there’s just not anything around that’s interesting to them. While an adult might just relish the thrill of seeing all five hours of Wagner’s opera “Gotterdammerung,” it’s not something I’d recommend foisting on an eight-year-old!
But the other reason is that there’s something going on inside the kid that’s keeping them from embracing life as they should. You see, we dogs are a lot like young kids. And if I walk into a new environment, my nose is sniffing everything, my ears are perked up, I’m looking around… I might be a little nervous or scared, but I’m sure not bored. And if I see something that looks exciting – like a fun-looking dog, or some squirrels, or a picnic lunch! – I’m going to run to it instantly, with my heart beating fast and every bit of me thrilled.
And if that isn’t happening, like if I don’t get all excited about those squirrels or that fried chicken, Handsome is going to get worried about me, and assume that I must be ill. If that stays the same for a day or two, he’ll probably take me to see the veterinarian. Because that’s just not me!
So if your son isn’t ill, it’s sounding to me like there’s something that’s getting in the way of his pursuit of fun. Now you tell this story about a football game. Does he like football usually? Some kids find football pretty boring. And of course there are others who are no good at it, and so avoid playing it so other kids won’t be mean or disappointed in them. This kid might say they’re bored, because the only thing anyone’s doing for fun is something that’s no fun at all for them!
But it also could be that your son is a little depressed. There’s a condition called Anhedonia, which means the inability to experience pleasure. If your son has that, it might well be because of a low-level depression he’s going through. You might try talking with him, seeing if he can come up with a list of ten things he’d love to do. And then try to see if you can do some (“Fly to the moon” might be a bit outside your monthly budget, but “ride a rollercoaster” or “see the new superhero movie” might work just fine). If you can, does that help? If so, he may have just been in a mindset where life is difficult and good things can’t happen. Everyone gets into those.
But if doing those things doesn’t help, if he continues to be this way, you might want to look into talking with a child therapist about seeing him. Again, most likely this is just a phase he’s going through, but it’s possible that he may be dealing with something more. And in either of those cases, a good therapist can help him with it, in a fun and building way.
Thanks, and good luck!