Request an appointment by clicking here or by calling 704-444-0087



Let’s face it. Our kids are bored. Really bored. We tell them we understand, but we don’t really. How could we truly understand what it’s like to grow up during a global pandemic?

Regardless of your generation, we never faced anything like this. COVID-19 dramatically disrupted basic pillars of child mental health: social connection and behavioral activation (e.g., doing stuff, physical movement) in a way no one has seen since World War II.

We forget that often most behavioral problems are better described as ineffective communication. Once you look at behavior not as the problem, but as a method of communication, it can make much more sense.

Our kids often don’t know what they need much less how to communicate it. Their prefrontal cortex, and consequently their executive functioning and emotional regulation, isn’t fully developed until their 20s. We forget that our children often don’t have the skills to say, “I feel agitated right now” or “I hate the feeling of being bored and need help dealing with it.” In turn, they don’t have the skills to know how to tolerate that emotion long enough to make a helpful choice about what to do. They’re much more likely to go to the shiny penny of screens.

Our kids are exhausted psychologically and physically, yet many aren’t as active as they were before. I hear many parents complain about why their kids won’t go outside and play or commenting on how they would have done that instinctively when they were younger. Yet again, we forget. We might have had video games, but they weren’t near this good.

We didn’t have iPads, FaceTime, none of it. Boredom forces you to entertain yourself in different ways, and, when responded to in a helpful way, is actually associated with creativity. Yet our kids might need more help than we did with the choices they have.

Socially, our kids are starving for connection with their friends. They have lost the ability to play with other kids with true freedom and face-to-face. They’re sick of online. They actually need quite a bit of help navigating this world. Parents can really help their kids with social challenges – for example, to think outside of the box on how they could set up virtual game nights, video game challenges and meetups, and socially distanced gatherings (if appropriate).

Yet with all of this they are handling this pretty well. Probably better than us.

Naturally, we’re anxious for them because this is such an unprecedented shift in our collective reality. We see behaviors that are concerning like too much screen time, but maybe we fail to miss how they are trying to cope without their favorite friends and activities. When they fail, maybe we forget that maybe they need help identifying the problem and figuring out the solution.

Our fear and worry can often get in way of our noticing and being with our kids RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW.

Most importantly, we may be missing opportunities in the present moment when we’re worrying so much about how they will cope with COVID long term.

Opportunities for praising what they ARE doing well and how they ARE being resourceful. Although there has definitely been alot of togetherness, maybe we are missing opportunities to be together in a different way.

We all need fun and play in our lives. When I work with executives, in therapy or coaching, we often focus on values clarification at the beginning to identify what valued domains are not being emphasized enough. Almost universally, the one valued domain that is typically being neglected but, when emphasized, makes the most difference are the domains related to: fun, play, and creativity.

So, just like, our kids we also need fun, play, and creativity in our lives. Perhaps, we could try doing it together and in the process infuse our kids with both behavioral activation and social connection.

Below are some ideas that will help you infuse your play and some tips on how to maximize the positive impact on the parent-child relationship.

1. Dance together.

Dance with your kids to songs from today or from when you were a teen. Just Dance can be used as an app on your phone or PC or can be played on an Xbox, PlayStation, or Nintendo Switch platform. We were introduced to this at a party with a bunch of my graduate students when I was a professor. My kids were little and loved it. They stole the show.

We’ve been dancing ever since. It’s great exercise and we always end up laughing. My son and I have actually gotten really good at the Extreme Version of Scream and Shout by Britney Spears after doing it probably 50 times. When I feel like we’re bored, we use this is as a way to move and laugh! My husband and I also can tell them so many stories about back in the day when we went dancing together – well, not all of the stories.

Just Dance is rated E for Everyone, but you still need to watch some of the song lyrics. If you aren’t familiar with the lyrics, look at them before you play the song. Also, note that some of the dances might include movements you might be nervous about for younger kids. To be safe, you can stick to the kids’ songs and prescreen all the lyrics.

Rated E for Everyone.

2. Sing together.

It is very difficult to be sad or bored when singing. So why not do karaoke with your family! Once you get started with these games, it’s hard to stop. There are several karaoke apps available. Let’s Sing offers songs from current Billboard charts as well as classics. Gaming Boulevard called it a “solid karaoke game with interesting solo play.” You can also use challenges to challenge family members and there’s a phone app if you don’t have a USB microphone. We Sing and We Sing Pop are other karaokes program that I have not played but are available on most platforms.

Note that all of these games are rated T for Teen due to language, mild blood (no idea on this one), and suggestive themes. I just started doing this one with my family, and I’ve got to admit this one would have been tougher to do with little ones. It’s a good idea to look at what’s available and pull the lyrics online and review before you start singing. Some of these apps include the videos for the songs so you would likely want to play it before sharing with your kids.

Rated T for Teen.

3. Play games together.

Many parents and families have already discovered this one. 2020 was like one of those nights the power went off but for a year . . . except that we did have a night when the power went off, and I thought we were all going to lose it! Games definitely saved us.

We noticed that people in our family liked different games. My son really loves fantasy games with stories like King of Tokyo, Castle Ravencroft, Dungeons and Dragons, and Villains. My daughter likes word games and trivia like Trivial Pursuit, Bananagrams, and Scrabble. My husband likes card games like Phase 10 and classics like Spades, Rook, and rummy.

I’m a mom, so basically, I no longer know what I want anyway. Seriously, I learned that I like cooperative games like Castle Panic and Dungeons & Dragons because I felt like I could teach my kids much more through those. However, I’m a psychologist, so I also enjoy playing games where my kids have to lose, so we can do some low-dose exposure therapy about expectations not being met. Yay – embrace the suck!

So every game night when we rotated choice here, we would let that person pick and then we’d use Alexa’s “whose turn is it?” function to pick the first to go. I love it when artificial intelligence (AI) is the one fielding all of the “It’s not fair” protests about who goes first.

In addition to board games, you can also play video games with your kids. In fact, if they’re playing them, then it can be a very easy and quick way to really engage with them and allow them to teach you a skill. Kids love this! We waited a long time before allowing my kids to have video games, and so when we did, we made a commitment to engage. We both play with them a few times a week. It doesn’t take much time – only 15 minutes really – for you to play and work with your child on building in Minecraft, racing in Mario Kart, or a campaign in Battlefront for you to find alot of common ground with them.

You can also model what it’s like to deal with failure and losing because you’re gonna lose!

4. create together.

One of the skills taught in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, an evidence-based treatment for a variety of childhood behavioral problems, might surprise you. It’s modeling.

Yes, copying your kids are cool. Without boring you to death with a lecture on interpersonal neurobiology, the bottom line is that when we model our kids, we empower them. When we use their language and mannerisms, even if we sound goofy or get it wrong, it empowers them. If we let them teach us, now you are on to something!

For me, this is relevant because I absolutely cannot draw or paint. It’s stick figures only. Photography and writing are my only expressive arts. My daughter would strike that entire sentence and say that I haven’t practiced, so I really don’t know.

However, my kids are very talented artists. Over quarantine, several times, my husband and I let both of them give us art instruction. I couldn’t believe that I actually said, “I’m terrible at this” in front of my daughter, but I did. My daughter was an incredible teacher. She praised my effort and redirected me.

During this time, my husband and father also worked with my kids on creating several woodworking and engineering projects. At first, they were skeptical, but when we asked about what kinds of things they would want to make, we got serious interest. My son wanted to paint his nerf gun very unique colors, and my Dad, who used to restore classic cars including their paint jobs, helped him tape it out just like he would a fancy paint job. They had a blast.

What is something that you enjoy doing that you could share with your kids?

5. head outdoors together.

Camping has been a popular family activity for our family for a long time, but we found more time to do it this year. Can’t really get more socially distanced than that!

If you’re not up for traveling, you can pitch a tent in your backyard and build a fire. Or if you can’t handle the bugs, you can “camp in” and set up for a family sleep over in your living room with a tent or a handmade one (remember the sheets and chairs people!).

Another outdoor family activity – geocaching!

Geocaching is a wonderful family activity that checks a lot of the boxes – outdoors (yay Vitamin D!), requires physical movement, and allows for social connection.

For all the muggles (that’s what a non-geocacher is called) out there, geocaching is basically when you use an app like Geocaching to identify different containers also called “caches” or “geocaches” using a Global Positioning System or other navigational techniques.

Geocaching etiquette requires that you sign the travel log when you discover the find and if the cache offers a prize, that you take one and leave one.

My husband discovered this before we had kids, so we’ve been doing this with our kids for forever. We have discovered some really cool caches including one in Auburn, Alabama that included a secondary pirate map and elaborate game of pinball to discover the prize.

We also have started some travel caches or “travel bugs” that are now traveling around all over the world! As of today, when I checked, my son’s Mr. Incredible travel bug was logged in in Basel Landschaft, Switzerland and my daughter’s is in Mecklenberg-Vorpommern, Germany!

If you can find some room for play with your kids, it can do wonders. Even teens will go for much of this! Although they might roll their eyes or complain if this is a new hobby, if you can ignore that and prioritize it and shift to focusing on what they’re doing right, they can do this. If you start dancing to a Billboard hit on Just Dance, it’s going to be really hard for them not to show you up!



At my Charlotte, NC therapy office, I offer a variety of mental health services. I also offer online therapy in North Carolina. In my therapy practice, I work with clients in all ages including children, teens, and adults. I provide treatment for anxiety, stress, depression, trauma, vicarious trauma, and life transitions. If you’re interested in group therapy, I offer group therapy for adults and teens. Please contact my office to hear more about the many ways I can help you thrive and be successful at work and at home.


If you are experiencing stress but don’t think those symptoms have risen to the level of impacting your psychological health, then executive coaching may be more your style. I offer those services to professionals including healthcare providers in my coaching practice.


For more free resources, please check out the rest of our blog and our resources page, including books, apps, talks, and recent press. You can also follow us on Facebook or Instagram to find more information on psychology, human behavior, and neuroscience. For even more helpful resources, please subscribe to our newsletter! 

Momentum’s resources are for informational purposes only and are not intended to assess, diagnose, or treat any medical and/or mental health disease or condition. Our resources do not imply nor establish any type of therapist-client relationship. The information should not be considered a substitute for consultation with a qualified mental health or medical provider who could best evaluate and advise based on a careful evaluation.