A girl sits on a bench texting
A teen sits on a bench in a garden texting (image credit: cristina-gottardi-tJB4SOwMaJI-unsplash)

Bored teens

“I am bored,” was a constant complaint of mine, growing up in the 1970s-80s in New Delhi, India. 

I am sure my parents heard it more during summer and other vacation times. 

Their suggestions were to, “go play with a friend, read a book, write an essay, play chess, carrom, and cards with your brother.”

Outings were few and far between. Going to visit relatives was not exactly an escape from boredom. Some visits were more boring than others.

Playing with friends was definitely the best boredom buster. But it was not always an option. The summer sun in Delhi was and is excruciating.

Learning to live with boredom

Outdoor play taught me the power of communication, collaboration, and compromise. Indoor games entertained and educated. 

But we couldn’t always keep boredom at bay. My brother and I did not grow up with the slew of electronic devices that teens of today have for company and instant entertainment.

In retrospect, I am glad that I had the gift of boredom as a child.

Summer breaks with my teen

Recently, when my teen asked me about what I did in my summer breaks I admitted that despite activities, I was often bored. But, I added, “Being bored is good.”

I explained …you learn how to observe, think, feel, and become grounded while learning more about your surroundings. You also learn to engage in an activity, rather than be perpetually dependent on external stimuli.

I still recall the color of flowers in our small kitchen garden and the bounty bestowed by our papaya tree one year. Crafts of my youth still adorn the walls of my parent’s home. I go back to memory lane whenever I visit them.

I do believe that boredom helps create new neural pathways. Being constantly engaged or entertained takes us away from free thinking.

My teen hears me with an expression of exasperation.

But, I rarely hear, “I am bored,” from her.

No time for boredom

My daughter appears to toggle seamlessly between myriad devices that keep her busy all the time. Whenever she appears, it’s de rigueur to see her phone in hand and air pods in her ears. Her ease with technology and devices fascinates me and I do acknowledge the convenience of tech.

But my own experience has made me realize that boredom has a place in enhancing creativity. 

Books vs ebooks

Recently, I encouraged her to read a physical book rather than an ebook.  

She was reluctant to do so and wanted to know why she should change her mode of reading. 

Besides taking a break from a screen, I say, a physical book has some advantages. You can stop, think about what you just read, easily go back to a line, a paragraph, or a page, and not hurry. 

There is an artificial sense of urgency in screen reading and an urge to finish, rather than to understand or just mull over the written word. 

A middle ground for small victories

We decided to meet mid-way. She would read some physical books, but won’t have to give up her ebooks.

Nothing teaches you to compromise like parenting a teen.  I rejoice in small victories.

Another pact in my family is not to text each other from one room at home to another. I’ve emphasized that the preferred method of communication at home is to walk the few steps needed to talk to each other face-to-face.

Again, I did not achieve this simple victory without negotiation. 

My older daughter asked if texts from the driveway, garage, front yard, and backyard were permitted. I said, “No. All these areas are a part of our house.”

In typical teenage fashion and one-upmanship skill, the younger one suggested they could just step onto the sidewalk to text from there. 

I cannot restrain a smile but take a long deep breath. I remain convinced of the power of small steps and smaller victories.

Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

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Shalini Kathuria Narang is a Silicon Valley based software professional and freelance journalist. She has written and published extensively for several national and international newspapers, magazines...