One of the concerns parents are in right now is that they are creating a generation of stimulation junkies. A stimulation junkie needs to be entertained and stimulated all the time. When left to entertain himself, he becomes uncomfortable and has withdrawals.
Parents fall into the trap of raising kids that are stimulation junkies. It starts innocently enough. Of course, you want your kids to be happy; you want them to be entertained so you can get things done. Over time, it becomes a problem when your kids demand that they have something new and exciting to do. They want to go somewhere, get a new toy, play a video game, watch a TV show, and go on.
More often than not, kids have most of their waking time scheduled with activities that require a lot of time or money. Days would be for school after school for piano lessons, dance lessons, or something like that. It will always be homework when they get home, and the weekend will be booked with parties, trips to some special events, or outings. The child then will be very uncomfortable just being at home. He will have difficulty finding something to do on his own. There was little imaginary play and certainly no downtime.
Overstimulation happens when children are swamped by more experiences, sensations, noise, and activity than they can cope with.
The word “junkie” was used to describe this situation because there is an addictive element involved. Kids get used to being immersed in activity every minute. They feel short-changed or unhappy if there isn’t something stimulating that is provided for them and keeps them in a quasi-state of excitement or emotional absorption.
Unfortunately, there is an actual cost to this trend. Here are some of the more common ones.
Loss of imagination and creativity.
Imaginary play is a necessary activity for children. It helps them diffuse and safely discharge strong emotions, solve problems, stimulate brain development, and increase creativity. Imaginary play is the foundation for adult problem solving later in life. It’s the precursor to thinking outside the box to come up with solutions to real-life situations. Kids who are being fed a constant stream of activity that comes from external sources spend little time in imaginary play.
Imagine the difference between watching TV and reading a book. By watching TV, you receive something, and you don’t have to participate other than turning your attention toward the screen. It’s passive consumption of stimuli that requires nothing of you. You may interact emotionally, but you do not have to use your imagination or creative thinking to visualize what’s going on. Everything is done for you.
Reading a book is an interactive process. You not only focus your attention on the words you are reading, but you also create pictures in your mind to add imagery to what is being said, or new thoughts are initiated as you interact mentally with the material you are taking in. It is an expansive activity that sharpens your mentality and imagination and aids in developing both your emotional and intellectual personality components.
Kids who are used to having their life filled with outside stimulation become dependent on it. More importantly, they become dependent on others to provide it for them. They habitually seek happiness from external sources. In short, they do not develop their inner worlds.
Moodiness and Tiredness
Kids who are used to a lot of stimulation and get uncomfortable without it tend to get worn out and overwhelm easily. They become overstimulated, which manifests as tiredness, grumpiness or irritability, moodiness, and in some cases, difficulty sleeping.
Why Boredom is Good for your Kids
Boredom is a temporary emotional state. When bored, a person has unpleasant feelings, lacks interest in completing tasks, and has problems paying attention. A bored person has things they can do, but they just can’t engage with them.
Boredom can come from a lack of rest and nutrition, lack of mental stimulation, or too much repetition (lack of novelty). People with a high sensitivity to reward, meaning those who need constant stimulation to feel satisfied, are more at risk of being bored.
It’s great to give your kids opportunities to participate in enriching extracurricular activities. Sports, dance, music, arts and crafts, clubs, martial arts, or any activity that expands a child’s horizons are wonderful. It is equally essential to provide downtime and the opportunity to experience and deal with boredom. When you’re bored, your mind automatically searches for ways to alleviate the feeling. Almost always, this initiates creativity and imagination.
When your kids come to you and complain they are bored, you can help them come up with a couple of ideas to entertain themselves. Still, it is best to let them feel the discomfort of boredom. If they don’t have that experience, they won’t get to delve into their imaginations and creativity. Let them figure it out. Point out some things they could do, but leave it to them to decide on what to do and do it. In other words, you can give a little jumpstart, but don’t rescue.