Sharing moments Young adults Bye bye Hotel Mum How you feel at home Semester abroad Language course abroad or work as an au pair? Be prepared Grassrooted The world’s calling Make an impression Planning a family Tracking fertility The right time? How men can help Fertility and diet Medical check-up What you need to know about ovulation What to do if you don’t conceive straight away Three electronic fertility and cycle trackers in comparison Planning a family and partnership Pregnancy Examinations during pregnancy Diet and nutrition Is my pregnancy progressing normally? Tips for daily life Important points for travel and holidays Is my pregnancy progressing normally? What items do I need for my baby? Where and how do I want to give birth? What do I need to pack for the hospital? How should I prepare my home for my child? Is my pregnancy progressing normally? How can I best prepare for my baby? How can I best prepare for the birth? Nutrition Parent-child relationship Preparing for breastfeeding | Sanitas Magazine Insurance Stretch marks Sleep Rupture of membranes Baby blues High-risk pregnancy Braxton Hicks & false labour Formalitites Morning sickness Our baby Bathing baby – what you need to know How babies hear Infant first-aid kit Baby care Is my baby developing normally? Month-to-month overview of baby development Is my baby developing normally? Month-to-month overview of baby development Baby care Breastfeeding Celebrating and enjoyment Christmas and New Year’s Eve with a twist A philosophical take on pleasure Pleasure can also be found in the soup kitchen in Zurich Tips for a peaceful and stress-free Christmas Living better with cardiac insufficiency Alejandro Iglesias Hana Disch Patrizio Orlando Other countries Hay fever Everyday help In pursuit of happiness Seven tips for a happier daily life Kids in lockdown Be active Active during pregnancy Sport and exercise during pregnancy Antenatal exercise classes Standing properly Healthy eating Green smoothies Vitamin D Good eggs, bad eggs Diet plan Healthy fats Feed your muscles How much sugar should we eat a day? How much fat should we eat a day? Lactose intolerance Healthy diet, strong immune system Low Carb Healthy heart Interview with Christophe Wyss Heart-friendly sports How the mind affects the heart Taking blood pressure correctly High blood pressure: what you need to know Healthy teeth Changing habits Interview Stortpsychologie 10-step guide to changing habits Try, try, try again Running coaching Running ABC Race in Sarnen Factors affecting condition Weekly planner Running shoes Strengthening exercises Running nutrition Complementary sport Warm-up Stretching Functional clothing Fitness tracker Shopping – sportswear Running tips for women Relaxation technique Recovery New lease of life thanks to Sanitas running coaching Running training The first half marathon Training and heart rate Running Ticks Sport after childbirth Postnatal exercise Taking the strain off your shoulders Kangatraining Workout while walking Expert tips Stress and relaxation Moving air Fight stress with yoga What is stress Learn how to relax Dealing with stress What is burnout? “The first step was to create boundaries” Juggling family and a career Reduce stress Stressor factors The most beautiful Swiss saunas Sweating in the sauna Breathing exercises for relaxation The right rest & recovery: debunking myths Mindfulness Sleep Trend sports Fitness boxing Slackline Bouldering Fascia training Stand Up Paddling Keeping fit efficiently Swing with a smile! Vertical workout Hiking Altitude sickness Seven stroller-friendly hikes Needed: a hiking-friendly pushchair There goes the other sole! Tips on hiking with a baby Mountain lakes Planning a family: Fertility and exercise Stair climbing Pumptrack Your back Kids’ back Back exercises Sitting properly at work Forest fun Playing for life Promoting health and fitness Motivation Sledging Curling glossary What do you get if you cross a kite with snow? Snowshoeing Preventing falls Inline skating Swimming Swimming Wings for Life Stretching Bike tips Stretching exercises for cyclists koerper-und-kaelte Healthy teeth thanks to dental hygiene and preventive care Putting wishes into practice Tips for healthy teeth Hometraining Investigating teeth-related myths 10 tips to ease anxiety Hand care How our body regenerates Bauchübungen Keeping fit on holiday Swim training aids Living together today Digital life Online addiction Digital temptation Children and digital media Smartphone neck Our brains love habit Change my habits? You’re joking! Planning a family: Difficulties trying to have a baby Planning a family: Myth vs fact Solidarity study Newcomers Living together tomorrow Digital nomads Giesserei multi-generation house The blind film director Help instead of rent Working on the move Medical practices of the future Our skin – layer by layer Generational discussion: wishes for life Hausarzt und Corona Safe return to work Corona crisis: singing together Corona crisis: Working in intensive care Corona crisis: working in a nursing home Rest and recovery: learning from children Corona crisis: voluntary work for the needy Second opinion Relationships and children Developments for the future App check Aqualert SRC blood donor Codecheck Forest Freedom Freeletics Moment Sleep Better PeakFinder Findery Six fitness apps reviewed Internet use High-tech trousers Prostheses Hospital of the future New skin for burns victims Online-Therapien Sanitas newsletter

Families in lockdown: I’m bored!

Schools and kindergartens are closed. All their friends are in lockdown too. Football fields are out of bounds, the homework’s done, and you’ve run out of ideas for making things. Boredom strikes! Why a healthy dose of boredom won’t do your kids any harm, and is actually good for them.

Interview: Helwi Braunmiller; photo: iStock

The lockdown is a special situation for kids as well. They can’t meet their friends, their parents have to work at home and don’t always have time, leisure activities are limited, and things get very boring. Psychologists Susanne Walitza and Simon Grunauer explain what boredom is and why, on balance, it’s a very positive state.

What exactly triggers boredom?

Simon Grunauer: Boredom is a complex phenomenon. Scientists can’t agree on a common definition. Not only that, but it’s not clear why we humans get bored. Boredom is most often described as an unpleasant emotional state, possibly triggered by monotony and a lack of stimulation. It’s also assumed that a high level of sustained attention and concentration and a low level of motivation are factors favouring boredom.

Some parents have the feeling that their children are quicker to complain or get bored than others. Are there really differences?

Simon Grunauer: Yes, children have different levels of activity. Some need a lot of different activities and rapidly move from one thing to the next. These kids can get bored quickly even if what they’re doing seems entertaining. Other children can keep themselves occupied with the same activity or toys for longer, even for hours on end. Personality traits such as introversion and extraversion also have a varying influence on the experience of boredom.

Is boredom also a question of age?

Simon Grunauer: Yes and no. Even really young children get bored. They can’t put their finger on or name the feeling so well, so they simply stop showing an interest, complain or even start crying.

Boredom is something that crops up repeatedly until adolescence, but it varies a lot from person to person.

In later adolescence, boredom tends to get less common, because school is challenging and in our western culture it’s usual to seek distraction in leisure activities and consumption. Boredom appears to be more or less non-existent – or no longer allowed – once we reach adulthood: either because you could be seen as being lazy or you then have to find your own ways of handling the boredom.

Is boredom a sign of parental neglect? Is it even harmful for children?

Simon Grunauer: Boredom can be harmful for children who grow up in circumstances where they’re physically and/or emotionally neglected. But the opposite doesn’t apply: boredom doesn’t harm children who grow up in a good environment, unless they’re permanently underchallenged, which can prevent them from developing their potential.

What’s the best way for parents to respond if their kids complain of boredom?

Simon Grunauer: First of all you should accept what the child’s feeling, and maybe paraphrase it. For example, you could say: “So you have no idea what you’d like to do now?” Then you can talk to your child about whether other feelings are involved, for example: “Could it be that you’re angry that you don’t know what to do?” Parents can then emphasise the positive side of boredom by saying something like: “It looks like you’re having problems coping with being bored at the moment. But that also leaves room for new ideas!”

Parents should try to steer their children towards coming up with new ideas themselves.

And then they can talk to their child to find out how it could deal with boredom. It’s best not to simply list the hundred toys they have in their room. Parents should try to steer their children towards coming up with new ideas themselves.

Susanne Walitza: So it’s not just about leaving children to their own devices. In addition to doing activities together with them, it’s also about helping them to recognise the value of boredom.

But many people aren’t aware of this value and tend to constantly try and “entertain” their children. Is that a good idea, or can it also be counterproductive?

Susanne Walitza: There’s no one single answer to this question. Each family has to find its own way of balancing the needs of the parents and the children. What’s right for one family might not be so good for another. But children don’t need round-the-clock entertainment. They need periods without animation, free time, and also boredom.

We would encourage parents to trust their intuition. Parents generally have a good feel for when it’s best to help kids come up with their own ideas, when it’s good to do something together, and when it’s best to leave their child to deal with being bored. It depends on the age of the children, their phase of development and their personality.

Why would you say boredom can benefit children?

Simon Grunauer: First of all, boredom is a good opportunity to practise being aware of yourself, your thoughts and your needs, and learning how to formulate them. It’s also something that’s helpful and healthy for adolescents and adults as well.

If you try to distract your child with activities every time they're bored, they’ll start to take the distraction for granted.

Susanne Walitza: Boredom isn't a waste of time. Above all, by overcoming boredom a child can learn how to amuse itself and come up with ideas of things to do. By coming to terms with a feeling of being bored it learns to fill the void that appears, and also realises the value of activity and stimulus. If you try to distract your child with activities every time a feeling of boredom comes up, they’ll start to take the distraction for granted. Through periods of boredom, by contrast, a child can develop an interest in topics and activities, and find meaning in ways of passing the time that can’t be prescribed by you.

Apart from this, boredom can be a good sign indicating calm and relaxation. It only sets in when children are under less stress and have fewer obligations and deadlines, for example at the weekend.

It’s been observed that periods of boredom boost the performance of the brain.

And there are various medical and psychological studies showing brain activity during phases of boredom. In other words, the brain is working even when it doesn’t have much to do. It’s been observed that periods of boredom boost the performance of the brain.

So with time, can children find their own way out of boring situations?

Susanne Walitza: Children who are familiar with the feeling of being bored also remember how they made use of previous situations where time seemed to go very slowly. They’ve developed trust in their ability to use these periods of drawn-out time. Children who don’t have much experience of dealing with boredom first have to experience this. But if we as parents treat boredom as a matter of course, place value on it and show our children that we trust their ability to deal with it, they too will develop this confidence in themselves.

Especially in the current situation, can parents simply put their kids in front of the TV if they get bored?

Simon Grunauer: Yes, provided the programme, the game or the YouTube video doesn’t go on too long and is age-appropriate and geared to the child. But it’s often more fun for kids to watch a movie or play a game with their parents. This will also give the parents an idea of their children’s media competency. Rather than passive consumption it’s much better for kids to use digital media actively and creatively. For example, children could launch a video call with their grandparents, godparents or friends. Or they could use simple programs to make their own videos and soundtracks. There are also great apps for things like composing your own music or making a comic.