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As a parent, hearing the refrain, “I’m bored” makes us want to leap into action to figure out an activity to keep our kid entertained. But, it’s more than okay for your kid to be bored. In fact, kids need to have unstructured time.

Because their (and our) lives are filled with external stimulation — electronics, extracurricular activities, video games— they rarely have to tap their inner resources. All of the screens they’re glued to (computers, iPads, phones, etc.) produce a small dopamine reward inside their brains. That dopamine “rush” means that other kinds of experiences just aren’t as enjoyable and don’t measure up. All the more reason to leave some of your kids’ time unscheduled. Rather than feeling that you always need to keep your kids interested, let them find out what interests them, other than screens.

The human brain is not wired to be constantly in “go” mode — daydreaming and letting the mind wander is a good thing. Being still allows your child to figure out what she’s thinking and feeling. Having “nothing to do” means she turns to her own creative resources to figure something out.

When they were younger, I remember my kids inventing their own wacky games and making an astonishing variety of things by cutting and folding plain white paper. What did you do when you were bored, back in the day? Read. Listen to music. Play in the dirt. Play a card game. Build a fort with your brother.

So, even though it can be a bit like listening to fingernails on a chalkboard, do your best to wait out the “I’m bored!” complaint. More times than not, you’ll find that your kid will zero in on something to occupy them. If you feel like you’ll pull your hair out if you don’t intervene, Care.com has a list of 101 activities to suggest.

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Happiness: it’s been endlessly written about, researched, been the theme of movies, and the promised goal of self-help seminars. Its pursuit is even written into the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Happiness means different things to different people and in different situations. Being happy with your work is different than being happy in your marriage, or where you live. Viewing happiness as a fixed state makes achieving it unrealistic and ultimately frustrating. By nature, happiness ebbs and flows.

Parent happiness and personal happiness are not the same. When asked, “What makes you happy?” many parents will answer, “I’m happy as long as my kids are happy.” The problem is there is no way to ensure your kids are happy all of the time. Nor should they be. There are measurable benefits to kids experiencing a daily dose of problems they need to solve. Happy children develop confidence in their abilities to do this and come to view mistakes and setbacks as challenges, rather than as insurmountable.

Topping the list as the source of happiness is connection and relationships. A long term study known as the Harvard Study of Adult Development began looking at the correlation between happiness and health in 1938, during the Great Depression. The results have been undeniable: relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives. Family and communal ties help buffer life’s ups and downs, help to slow down mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.

You can learn more about the study’s research and the results by watching Robert Waldinger’s, the current and fourth Director of the study, 2016 TED talk. Happy viewing!

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