Why entertaining your expat child during the school holidays can be negative in the long run:

Thousands of parents across the globe are pulling their hair in despair at this time of the year.


Many (international) schools closed their doors or are about to do just that. For what feels like an eternity… And moms and dads ask themselves and others: “What do we DO during these weeks and months of school holidays??”

What if we did nothing?

As parents, we are used to help our children do what they need – and want. Ferry them around to tennis or guitar lessons, drop off and pick up at playdates or the cinema, get the dvd or computer game they are after… Most of us keep our children entertained 24/7.
But researchers appeal to us to let our children get bored!


Only boredom gives them the opportunity to imagine. And playing or observing the world and the people around them lets our children process their own thinking and experiences – something that is especially important for our expat children who often have their feet rooted in two different cultures.
A visit to your home country, which is most probably planned during your long school holidays, may offer a great opportunity for your child to explore your culture. Just give her some free time – and make sure that the entertainment system called ‘Grandparents’ takes a break from time to time.
Boredom has even more advantages: according to research, it sparks creativity in children. This helps to make your child resourceful, develop problem solving skills, and ultimately become stronger.

Just press a button

Now most people, not only children, are not comfortable with the feeling of boredom. We adults, as well as most of our children, are used to fill our time with activities. TV, computers, tablets, game consoles… entertainment is so easy to get – just press a button.
It’s a bit like the opposite of filling your plate with vegetables so you don’t eat too much mashed potatoes: watching TV and playing computer games keeps your children from playing something creative.

Researchers agree on one thing

Between researchers, there is no doubt about one thing: constant entertainment is harmful for children. Dr Belton, an expert in this field of research, asks us to consider what results we may achieve if we don’t get our kids used to boredom: “Some young people who do not have the interior resources or the responses to deal with that boredom creatively then sometimes end up smashing up bus shelters or taking cars out for a joyride.”

This holiday, let your children get bored. If they complain, you must not feel guilty – rest assured you are doing something very valuable for them.

While the kids are safely being bored you may have time to check out our Expat Guides:

The Expat-Living.info Guide to Cape Town

The Expat-Living.info Guide to Johannesburg

The Expat-Living.info Guide to Kuala Lumpur

These will keep you far from being bored – that’s a promise!

About Barbara Bruhwiler

Barbara is author of several books and co-founder of Expat-Living.info. She has her "Expat Advice" column in a local magazine, and she authored the Expat-Living.info Guide to Johannesburg.

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