Mommy, I’m bored!

My daughter has 10 WEEKS of summer vacation this year!  I hate to admit it, but it’s got me a little panicky – she is typically ‘bored’ by the end of the first week, so what are we going to do for the other 9?  It’s also a little tricky because I work out of the house, so my physical presence suggests that I am always ‘available’.

I must admit that, on occasion, I have been known to fall into the ‘if your kids don’t have at least 8 hours of fun every day, then you’re a bad mother’ trap, but I really should know better.  Truth is, even if I could come up with enough activities to keep my daughter blissfully entertained all summer, I would not be doing her any favors (although I’m sure she wouldn’t see it that way :)).  She needs to learn how to entertain herself and I need to learn how to not feel guilty about it.

I’m not going to pretend that my motives for insisting that my daughter entertain herself are purely altruistic.  As primary caregiver, I also need some ‘breaks’ in the day, to get things done and to rejuvenate, so that when my daughter and I spend time with one another again, it’s with renewed energy and not resentment.  I love to spend time with her and consider myself very lucky to have the opportunity, but feeling tired and frazzled, won’t benefit either of us in the long run.

Who amongst us hasn’t physically ‘cringed’ when they heard the words, “Mommy, I’m bored!” (I think we’re so sensitive to it because most of us have forgotten what it feels like to be bored).  The toughest part is stopping yourself from reacting and trying to convince them that there are lots of things to do (after all, you know that their closets are full of things that they haven’t played with in months).  You’re not going to convince them that they are not bored, so save your breath.  Do your best to smile and confidently assure them that you know they’ll figure it out.

It sounds strange, but kids also need to learn how to be bored – after all, there is something to be said for slowing down, daydreaming, looking at the clouds, thinking and just ‘doing nothing’.  Kids these days are involved in so many extracurricular activities that, when they don’t have something to go to, they’re not really sure what to do with themselves.  Sometimes, the act of being bored, can actually bring out their imagination and creativity.

These days, there seems to be an expectation that parents ‘entertain’ their children and keep them busy every hour of the day (in fairness, these expectations can be self-imposed).  Truthfully, all of these Martha Stewart DIY gurus on the internet don’t help, either (very few of us could ever ‘measure up’).   However, I don’t remember my mother thinking it was her responsibility to entertain my siblings and I.  Other than a week or two of swimming lessons and perhaps one week of camp, we played on our own, with one another or with friends in the neighborhood.

I walk around my neighborhood now and very rarely ever see kids playing outside.  Unfortunately, technology is largely to blame for this.  So much of the summer is spent inside, playing video games and watching TV.  Granted, it is so much easier to take the cap off ‘screen time’ and let kids spend unlimited time on electronic gadgets, leaving time for you to get things done and maybe enjoy some time on Facebook yourself, but the consequences can be seen in your children’s stifled creativity and growing waistlines.  Plus, being bombarded with multi-media breeds dependence on it, making it almost impossible to be entertained with anything less.

At the beginning of summer vacation, my daughter and I had a chat about what we wanted to ‘do’.  At that time, I made it clear that, although I definitely wanted for the two of us to spend time together, she was also going to be on the hook for entertaining herself.   Initially, she was less than enthusiastic about this prospect, but before long, she took it upon herself to come up with some ‘boredom busters’.  She found several excellent websites with ‘summer bucket lists’ and then added some ideas of her own.   Here are a couple of websites you and your children can check out for ideas…

http://nurturestore.co.uk/100-days-of-summer-bucket-list
http://www.kidspot.com.au/kids-activities-and-games/Printable-activities+45/Boredom-buster-jar+13152.htm

I’m thinking of doing something similar, but writing down various ‘chores’ that can be undertaken together in the summer (e.g. clean out my daughter’s craft supplies, organize photos, etc.).  My hope is that, if tackled in small, manageable chunks, we’ll be able to cross some of these ‘to-do’s’ off my list, too (well, one can hope, can’t they?!).

It’s true…every day is definitely NOT a carnival, but we both have to learn to be good with that!

 

Dangers of posting online

From the time they are toddlers, today’s children are drawn to technology and seem to have an almost innate understanding of how to use it.  However, their comfort level with all things technology, can also lead to a blindness to its many dangers.

Wii, Xbox, Nintendo DS, e-readers (e.g. Kobo and Kindle), IPOD and smartphones…what do these all have in common?  All of these devices can be used to gain access to the internet.  Scary, isn’t it?!  These devices all have parental controls to manage this access, but sometimes it seems like a never-ending battle to keep our children safe online.

Today’s kids are so “wired”, that they think nothing of incorporating technology into almost every facet of their lives.  Everything they do and everywhere they go, there is someone taking a picture or video and posting it online.  They don’t stop to think about the consequences.  Once something is posted online, you can’t ever get it back!  We have to help them understand that the picture or video they post today could end up leading a predator to their door, making them a target of cyber-bullying, or costing them a bank loan or a ‘job of a lifetime’, one day in the future.

I do my best to make sure my daughter’s picture doesn’t end up on the internet but, I realize that my ability to keep my daughter safe diminishes over time.  When that time comes, I pray that I have taught her what she needs to know to keep herself safe online.

Please show your children this video so that they might at least stop and carefully consider what they are doing before they post something online.

If you’re concerned about keeping your kids safe online, check out my Internet Safety Academy, an e-course I developed to help parents keep their kids safe online, as well as teach their children how to keep themselves safe in today’s cyber-world (after all, you can’t be there 24/7)!

If you’re interested in keeping your children safe online, you may also wish to check out my posts on “The dangers of online chatting” and “YouTube Safety“.

Staying safe online

Are your children staying safe online?  It’s a question that strikes fear into every parent’s heart!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at a social function and the conversation ended up focusing on the various perils of technology.  Are our children using it too much?  Are they being exposed to inappropriate words and images or, worse yet, are they being targeted by online predators or bullies?

I read a very disturbing fact the other day, 1 in 7 kids will be approached online by a sexual predator ( resource: www.loveourchildrenusa.org).

That was almost enough to prompt me to shut down the computer and never let my daughter near it again!  Realistically though, technology and the internet are here to stay and it wouldn’t be very practical to try to insulate her from something that is going to be such a big part of her life in the years to come (I don’t know about your kids, but my daughter has been using computers for school research and other activities since Grade 1 and I don’t see that changing anytime soon).

This is a topic that can seem rather overwhelming, especially for those of us who aren’t exactly ‘blazing a trail’ with respect to technology.  It is extremely important that we keep our children safe from the many dangers online, but where do you start?  There are a number of things that we, as parents, should do to protect our children (e.g. set up technology with safety in mind and oversee technology use), but it is equally as important that we teach our children how to protect themselves online (after all, we can’t be there 24/7).  The majority of our children have grown up with technology and are very comfortable with it, but most were never taught how to use it safely.  Learning this life skill could truly save their lives!

I believe that we need to start building this life skill when our children are still young, before they are faced with the even greater dangers of social media and the like.  If we start building a foundation of responsible technology use in their pre-teens (and even earlier), they will be much better equipped to handle what the teen years throw at them.

I felt so passionate about this, that I started researching this topic as a means of protecting my own daughter from the ever-growing list of online dangers.  However, I soon decided that thousands of other parents could use this information to protect their children, too.  There was so much information about internet safety and security out there, but it was scattered all over the place and was often contradictory.

I believed that parents really needed organized, easy-to-understand-and- implement guidelines.  They also needed child-friendly ‘training scripts’  (some interesting examples and screen shots to enhance learning wouldn’t hurt, either) to talk to their children about the various online dangers and show their kids what they can do to protect themselves in the cyber-world.

After months of research, Internet Safety Academy was born!  I truly believe that it gives parents the tools they need to create cyber-safe families!  Check it out here!

For more tips on keeping your kids safe online, read my posts entitled, “YouTube Safety” and “The dangers of online chatting“.