The one obstacle few parents think about when they think about parenting teens is dealing with boredom; however, this is something almost every parent and teen will face, and a teen’s (and their parents’) reaction to boredom may have a big impact on their future. Per the saying “an idle mind is the devil’s playground,” a bored teen may become a troublesome teen. That said, a productive reaction to boredom can actually help a teen make great use of their down time, get ahead of their peers, and discover new interests, strengths, and passions.

Why Teens Get Bored

Teens get bored for a lot of reasons, but this often happens when they have more time on their hands than their responsibilities and obligations require, and not quite enough inspiration or imagination to make great use of that time. This is also why gifted students who are placed in classes that are too easy for them may not actually live up to their potential or stand out as top students. Students, teens, and people in general need stimulation, inspiration, and challenges to conquer in order to feel fulfilled, and teens who have too much time without the above may end up wasting what could be valuable time for creativity, productivity, and independent projects.

Boredom Creates Negative Energy

As we alluded to above, students, teens, and people in general tend to get fulfillment and joy out of success, progress, and productivity. It may not seem like all teens love homework or school, but once you remove the hours spent working towards projects, tasks, and tests, teens who have nothing to replace that time with will likely get bored very soon. The truth is, teens who are busy and hardworking from Monday through Friday have a good reason to relax and celebrate on the weekends, as a reward for all their productivity. However, for students who have too much time on their hands, the free time and subsequent boredom can turn into anxiety, depression, and negative energy. This may all result in a teen feeling like they have nothing to work for, and their drive, motivation, and excitement may all disappear, as they begin to feel like their time is pointless and they have little to offer. This is exactly what no parent wants to deal with, and with the right guidance and resources, you can help your teen mitigate altogether.

Related: Examples of Online Extracurricular Activities

Happy teen with mermaid hair 

Focus on Imagination

While boredom might be the mother of troublesome teens, imagination (and creativity) is the mother of invention. This means that teens who harness their imagination during times of boredom may come up with new inventions, innovative solutions, or simply discover a new passion, hobby, or talent. Younger people tend to have more vivid imaginations and are often less inhibited than adults, which can lead to some very inventive outcomes – and this is exactly what parents should encourage in their teens who have some down time on their hands. You can even inspire them with stories of successful businesses and inventions that are only known today due to their founder’s spark of imagination. 

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Creative Solutions

If your teen needs some inspiration to employ their imagination and creativity in times of boredom, they should consider what new ideas and solutions might lead to. Does your teen have a passion, hobby, or field of interest? Can they think of any new products, services, ideas, or solutions that might improve that field? Might your teen have an idea for a new creative project that would leverage their talents and interests? This could be writing a script, planning a charity event, building a website, creating a product or service to sell, or any other productive use of time that results in a clear, positive, and fulfilling outcome.

New Outlook: Life is a Choice

The truth that many people – both teens and adults – fail to realize is that: the decisions you make and how you choose to use your time is a choice, and you won’t always be directed to the best answer. There are many adult employees who clock in, sit at their desk, and do the basic requirements for their 9 to 5 job. Those people may be bored, unmotivated, or they may simply not realize that in the free time they have, they’re given the free reign to make a better use of that time. They also may not realize that some small percentage of passionate, overachieving coworkers are currently maximizing that time and going above and beyond in their job – even doing things that are not asked of them. As a teen, you’re in the same boat. You have requirements, obligations, and responsibilities, but you also have the free will to go above and beyond, take tasks and subjects one step further, and make the most of your time and potential, and that’s exactly how you should approach every aspect of life to achieve success.

How to Motivate Bored Teenagers

If your teen appears bored and unmotivated, there are multiple actions you can step in and take to help improve their situation and make the most of their time. These actions should get at the root of what would motivate your teen or get them excited and engaged. In addition to probing questions to figure out what would excite your teen, you can also motivate them with incentives, future goals, and examples of other people who have created their own success from their own hard work, motivation, and creativity. 

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1. Ask Them What They Like to Do the Most

While television and social media may consume some portion of a teen’s down time, they shouldn’t be the only hobbies a teen spends time on. In order to figure out what those other hobbies may be, you should begin by asking your teen what activities or hobbies they would like to spend some time on. If your teen has trouble coming up with a few activities of interest, they can begin to do some online research and try to come up with a list of potential activities. As a parent, you can either suggest or enforce that they spend some of their down time on one of those activities before moving to a mindless or less productive activity like watching TV.

Two young women folded arms

2. Ask Them Who They Admire the Most

Another way to inspire your teen to make the most of their free time is to ask them who they most admire and why. Perhaps they admire people in a certain career, business owners, or athletes at the top of their field. Whoever they admire, you should ask your teen to investigate how those people got to where they are today. What did they spend their time on? You can encourage your teen that if they would want to pursue a similar path, they should consider using their time in similar productive ways.

Related: Business Ideas for Teens

Girl with map and globe

3. Ask Them About Their Top Travel Destinations

If travel and exploration is what motivates and inspires your teen, you could ask them about their top travel destinations. While you may not have any plans to travel in the near-term, there’s nothing wrong with thinking big and planning ahead. Plus, giving your teen a travel-planning project might lead them to a whole new interest, as well as exercise their research skills. Your teen could come up with the list of costs associated with traveling to their chosen destinations, along with the costs for any activities they would want to do on those vacations. After tallying up the total expenses, your teen could begin looking into ways to make that money to fund their own trip; this is a great way to encourage productivity, entrepreneurship, and independence in teens.

4. Ask Them What They Hope to Accomplish 

Though teens may be young, they should still be looking towards the future and planning accordingly; however, they may need a little push to start thinking this far ahead. You can probe them about their future aspirations and goals to try to figure out what bigger-picture accomplishments they would hope to achieve in their life. Once they think about this and come up with some long-term goals, you can work together with them to come up with a plan of preparation and achievement. Teens won’t know everything entailed in getting from point A to B, especially if A is a bored teenager and B is a successful adult. That said, with adequate guidance and support, they can definitely set out on a path most likely to get them there.

5. Help Them Find a Purpose

Similar to finding the activities that interest them or long-term goals that inspire them, you can work with your teen to help them find a purpose, or a reason behind the things they do. Their purpose could be a passion or talent they want to master, or it could be a future career they aspire to. Their purpose could be a charity or community service-related initiative they hope to start or get involved with. The purpose could either be based on what they want to do in their life or what impact they hope to make on other people or the world around them. Whatever that purpose is, they should begin mapping out and taking actions to pursue it, which should take up a good chunk of their free time and result in a productive, meaningful outcome.

Related: The 5 Most Productive Things Teens Can Do From Home Now and Through the Summer

6. Help Them Find Inspiration

The most important thing when it comes to motivating a bored teen is give them something to look forward to, to work forward to, or to give them some type of inspiration for taking action and making a change to their routine and attitude. Sometimes, showing teens the possibilities through success stories of other teens or role models who achieved noteworthy milestones is enough to inspire your teen on a similar pursuit. Sometimes they need something or someone more, and a parent might not be the best person to inspire them; they may need an outside mentor. You can start researching mentorship programs for teens, introduce them to a role model who might be willing to mentor them, or sign them up for a program for teens that also includes individual mentorship. 

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Boredom is something most, if not all, teens (and people in general) will deal with from time to time, but each person’s reaction to that boredom is most telling about their potential for success. Bored teens who don’t harness their creativity and imagination for productive activities may waste a valuable opportunity to get ahead and make great strides for their future. On the other hand, bored teens who are guided to make the most of their free time through suggested research and activities, mentorship, and inspiring long-term goals may both overcome their boredom and come out with a great positive result.