A child complaining of boredom may actually mean several different things. It may mean they want some attention from you. It could also mean they feel a little blue, a little anxious or restless, or just have some overall blah feeling that they can't really identify. "Today" contributor Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital, was invited on the "Today" show to share some advice on how to tackle the problem.Often when a child feels nervous or sad, they are so uncomfortable actually knowing how they feel and why they feel that way that they try to push away the bad feelings with constant activity. Once there isn't some distraction for a few minutes, the bad feelings start to creep back in and they experience boredom.
Alternatively, in this day and age of highly structured school, after-school activities, endless video and TV entertainment, many children are hooked on constant stimulation and are unable to create any entertainment of their own.
There are two problems here: the inability to tolerate down time, and the loss of creative potential. Finding solutions to enjoying alone time, as well as tolerating moments of frustration, are important life skills your child will need later. Expanding their ability to be creative and imaginative are also skills you want them to have for life.
It is not helpful to tell your child: "With all your toys you can't be bored" or "If you're bored then go clean your room or watch TV." The key is how to slowly build a child's own sense of resourcefulness.
So what can you do when your child is moaning “I'm bored”?
Limit home screen time
Your kid can play video games or watch TV whenever they have any downtime, but this will not help them be creative or manage alone time. If you don't limit their overall screen time per day, they'll never learn how to come up with cool ideas, or feel good about their decisions.
Keep tools around
Keeping a stash of rudimentary building blocks for imaginative fun will encourage them to create cool stuff. Paper, glue, paint, scissors and idea books for projects will help stir their thoughts on what they can do. Outdoor projects like mud concoctions can be encouraged too. Have rules for where their mess can be, but then allow them to have a messy area for fun.
Structure their time
It's not a good idea to tell your child: "If you're bored, you can figure out what to do." It will only frustrate them. Instead, keep an idea list that they may want to try. Then when you hear they are bored, ask them to refer to the list. Show them how they can organize things themselves.
Check their emotional temperature
If you are hearing a fair amount of "I'm bored," it may be a cry for help. Talk to your child to see if something is bothering them. Ask them if they are sad or worried. Maybe they just need a little more attention from you. Getting to the route of their feelings may help them address what's really wrong, and you may find they are not really bored.Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to “Today.” Her new book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was recently published by Riverhead Books. For more information, you can visit her Web site, .