Let’s set the scene. You just started out on your family hike. You feel prepared with snacks, water, proper shoes and everything else you might need. You have your smart phone ready to capture photos of you, your spouse, and your kid.
You are pumped. Everything seems to be going great! You get to share a special afternoon exploring the outdoors with the whole family.
Then reality sinks in, when almost immediately, your child exclaims loudly, “I’m bored!”
Your heart sinks. You grow frustrated. You wonder if your kid will ever be one of those nature-loving kids you see in the happy photos that all the outdoor companies use to sell your product. Maybe you even start to doubt yourself as a parent.
Nothing is more challenging to starting a practice of family hiking than a resistant kid. No matter how prepared you feel about the natural elements, when your child doesn’t seem to interested in hiking, the entire idea of going outdoors can make you want to throw your hands up and say forget it.
Before you do, read on for our ideas on how to tackle the boredom blues so that the next time your child shouts the words “I’m bored” you know just what to do.
Boredom by any other name…
Boredom is a funny word that’s hard for even adults to decipher. Often kids use it because they don’t have the words to describe what they are really feeling.
Often, the word boredom is a code for something else. Perhaps it’s hunger, perhaps its exhaustion, or maybe they are just trying to get your attention.
Use Boredom as a tool for connection
If you start to think of boredom as a code word - or as an (imperfect) way that they are trying to explain their feelings, then it can be a starting point for connection. When they say their bored, use it as a starting point to get at the heart of the matter.
In the parenting book How to Talk so Kids Will Listen...And Listen So Kids Will Talk, authors Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish recommend starting a tough conversation with reflective listening and use the tools of repetition to slowly figure out what's going on.
For example: “I hear you aren’t enjoying things. Can you help me better understand what’s going on?” Or “It sounds like you’re not happy. I hate when that happens to me!."
This process can take time, but it's worth it, and sooner or later they will start to open up.
Think like a Kid when you Plan your adventure
If cries of “boredom” are regular thing, it might be a good idea to rethink your hiking planning. Did you review what you were doing with your child before you left? Did you talk to them in terms that they understand?
Remember, little kids have no conception of ideas like miles or fractions of miles. For them, it’s more important to use a different kind of time register. Even the word “hike” can sound like work to some kids. Consider using a different term, like “exploration,” “nature walk,” or “adventure.”
Using a map can also help kids. Before we started Super Nature Adventures, we’d use this tool a lot to prepare our son. Sometimes we’d even go so far as to draw a map with him (the inspiration for the maps you find in the packets) and have him choose a route or color it in.
Rest and Regroup
It’s tempting to rush. But often the best thing you can do is simply rest and regroup. Boredom might be a way of telling you to change up the pace. Stop, have a snack, poke around in the dirt and mud. If your kid needs something, try switching things up with a new kind of conversation, listening activity, or try a game.
It’s okay if it doesn’t work out
We all have our days. (In fact, you might be surprised to know are lots of times that we adults don’t feel like doing something! ;)
If it’s not going to work out, remember, the effort was worth it even if you had to stop early. Learning to hike takes time and practice, and each step along the way helps. Crawling was hard once too for them, but look at them now, ready to run.
Instead of dwelling on the hike's "success," simply look at it a chance to learn and grow. Each family hike is part of an longterm investment that will help to build a closer relationship to nature over time. You went out, you tried. The next time will be a little better. We promise.
Header Photo credit: Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash
Bryna R. Campbell