A few weeks ago, our kids were living their best life and us parents were the chauffeurs. Boy did that come to a screeching halt. This time of the year would traditionally be a frantic race of activities with spring/summer sports and end of school year events. Like it or not, COVID19 has us in the unfamiliar territory of staying home. It is sad to see abandoned ball fields and deserted playgrounds but there is always something positive to appreciate. Here is the good news – doing nothing is healthy for our kids. Research shows that empty hours is a gift. It allows children the freedom to explore the world at their own pace. It is an opportunity for them to develop their own unique interests. They can plunge into pretend play. They are learning how to create their own happiness and manage their own time. When kids are overscheduled, it can lead to anxiety and burn out. So, if nothing else, at least during this time of “stay at home” kids are getting to power down and reset. Recently, I found our littles watching the cookies bake. That’s the epitome of doing nothing. Am I right?
Times like this is a refreshing reminder that being busy is not a competitive sport. Busy is not a badge to wear or a trophy to polish. Take a deep breath. It is okay to not fill every minute or every hour of every day. The world is a rich learning environment without all the frills. Doing “nothing” is actually doing a lot, in terms of giving our brains a much-needed breather. In fact, our brains depend on downtime to process information, and it can also boost creativity. Science says so. It is in this space of empty thought that we can replenish our stores of motivation and creativity, letting our thoughts flow naturally instead of constantly redirecting them to more pressing issues.
Do not be fazed by “I’m bored”. Boredom is a sign of a healthy child with an active mind seeking something to do. If we see ourselves as chief entertainment officer or activities director, we jump up to rescue our children from boredom. We rob them of the opportunity to learn how to entertain themselves rather than be entertained. Respond to “I’m bored” by looking for ways to be the facilitator. Create resources for them like plenty of art materials, dress up clothes, or good books to read.
The Italian say it best, “La Dolce Far Niente,” which translates “the sweetness of doing nothing.” Let’s find a way to gain something positive from something awful. COVID19 has stolen a lot from us. Make time to relax and reclaim part of yourself. You were given the ability to feel and experience life in a complicated, often messy, but always beautiful way. Take advantage of the gift of pure pleasure you were given. Hopefully soon, the world will reopen. In the meantime, what will you do today to start re-discovering the sweetness of doing nothing?
If all else fails, go outside and dance!