Your child’s boredom presents an opportunity for them to learn how to manage their thinking. These boredom strategies can help.
The ability to pay attention, to control the content of your thinking, is critical to a good life. When you pay attention to the extent that it really reflects who you are, what you have done, and what you want to do, you fulfill your role in this world. You also feel good about yourself and your work.
In addition to the ability to pay attention, children must learn how to be calm and how to focus. Calm means restful alertness. Calm, focus, and attention are all connected.
Interestingly, breathing is a useful indicator of how well a person is able to focus, pay attention and remain calm. When you are distracted and less able to focus deeply and be productive, those distractions are reflected in the breath.
This makes it valuable for your child to learn how to induce a calm focus through breathing techniques. Have them practice the breathing exercise below at least twice a day, but especially before bed. (It will help them sleep better.) As your child develops the ability to breathe deeply and intentionally, begin to help them reach for the technique when they are feeling stressed or anxious. The goal is for your child to train their mind and body to use breathing to calm themselves and focus appropriately.
Have your child put their hand on their belly and take a deep breath in through their nose. It is helpful to slowly count to four aloud at first, progressing to silent counting. Explain to your child that they should feel their belly rise when they take their breath.
Have your child hold this breath for the count of four. This helps to expand the lungs and also improves breathing control.
Have your child let their breath out to the count of four. If they are old enough to understand, have them make a whooshing sound as the air travels out of their mouth.
Repeat four times.
Humans compute other peoples’ intentions and emotions continuously, constantly observing their movements, posture, and gaze. These communication skills are essential for successful social interactions. You can help your child develop these skills through a game of copycat.
Keep in mind, brain imaging studies have now shown that the human brain contains a neuron system that helps us mirror or mimic others. These studies show that when we view another person’s movement, it activates our own brain in the same area for the same purpose. The brain neurons provide us with a copying mechanism that helps us understand the intention of other people. We can copy them and, in a sense, read their minds or anticipate their meaning.
While the goal is for this to be an activity that moves into the subconscious, the skill must first be developed.
A game of copycat is as simple or as complicated as you choose and is quite fun as you must interact closely and directly with your child. (Which makes it beneficial in other ways.) Simon Says is a type of copycat game, but I recommend taking it to a deeper level in order to teach important communication skills.
- Begin by facing each other in a seated position. Smaller children can sit right on your lap.
- Tell your child that you are going to copy everything their face does.
- Ask them to make a face and then copy whatever they do.
- After they get into the game, start naming the face. “Oh, this is a grumpy face!”, for example.
- When your child gets the idea of mimicking you (not all unique learners are able to do this without training) then switch turns and
- ask them to copy whatever your face does.
- Ask them if they can name the face.
- Move from facial gestures to mimicking body movements.
One mother of a former patient said that her son did not mimic or copy when he was a toddler. Copying is the key method of learning social behavior and speech. Mom said she started out by running in circles and falling on the floor when he did. She said she knew when the light came on in his brain that she was doing what he did and he started making up moves and watching to see if she followed.
Rein in The Brain
Messages in the brain are sent to the body by way of nerves. The nerves conduct the message. This is a beautiful system, but it can backfire when a person has an unchecked, or undisciplined, mind. Those same messages create harmful effects in the body.
Just by thinking you can create a whole cascade of physical symptoms. Shortness of breath, tense muscles and stomach aches are all possible symptoms of stress. While stress does operate on us from outside forces, we can minimize the effect it has on us by managing our thinking.
If your child frequently falls into storytelling and catastrophic thinking, you can help them learn how to manage their thinking.
Designate a specific time of day when the left brain is allowed its storytelling and catastrophic thinking. You will want to adjust this according to the child’s age and maturity.
Begin by describing their catastrophic thinking and storytelling as a wild horse, bucking and kicking and running out of control. You might even show them a video (use your discretion, of course) like THIS.
Explain that when horses act crazy like this, they can not only hurt others but also themselves.
Tell them that they are going to practice calming that wild horse down, but they are going to allow specific times when that horse can run wild.
Initially, instruct them to let the horse act wild. After a few minutes, tell them to “stop that horse!”
Then when the catastrophic thinking and storytelling start up during the course of the day, quickly say, “Oh! Wait! It isn’t time for the horse to run wild!”. Explain when it will be time for the horse to run wild, then inform them when it is time.
The left-brain time of day must have a start and stop time.
Over time, your child will develop skills to discontinue this nonproductive, circuitous thinking at the end of the left brain session. Stopping circuitous, pointless thinking becomes a strategy that can be strengthened and used in the course of a natural day or when awakening in the middle of the night with too many ideas flying across the mental landscape.