“So what do you do when you’re not on your screens?’ I ask every young person who sits down to talk about their unhappiness. “Hmmmm… nothin’ really” is almost always the response.
What’s happened to teaching kids to have hobbies? This obviously isn’t a brand new problem. Sadly, most people under the age of thirty have no hobby related abilities and don’t see it as a problem! In fact, hobbies are often seen as laughable.
The fact is, there are so many opportunities to learn new things and see your own creativity and capabilities when you make something tangible. Many kids now honestly believe they can’t do anything terribly special or unique and I can see why. Not only that, if you make things you often end up giving them to others and the selfless joy of making a gift of your time and talent produces empathy, caring and community and self-satisfaction that’s hard to teach.
Our Grandmothers, Dads and older friends may think it’s stupid to meditate and actively engage in quiet reflection and alone time as therapy but that’s what many of them did without even realizing it when they sat on the porch knitting or built a billy cart in the shed! I used to unwind my Nanna's yarn for her before I was given the breath-taking honour of learning a crochet project of my own. My results sucked but I felt important and I eventually got the hang of it haha. I remember trying to make a little square but it came out like a cone so I put a little strap on it and gave it to my Dad as a nose warmer. My parents almost choked thinking it looked perfect for warming up something else, I suppose!
I’m really worried about this, though. I couldn’t care less if I never see another woolly tea cosy (or willy-warmer) in my life but our kids are missing vital skills and qualities now that hobbies aren’t trendy. They’re missing self-confidence, a sense of mastery and accomplishment, self-reliance, initiative, safe risk-taking and they don’t seem to be experiencing a quiet mind with which to reflect on the good stuff in life and deactivate all those hyper hormones. It also takes patience to complete a project. Would you call your kids patient??
It’s great to hang out with friends, play sports and enjoy a good Mine craft session but tactile, creative, building tasks with yarns, buttons, plane parts, match sticks and the like are unequaled by fancy, plug in activities. There's nothing more satisfying than carrying a handbag you made or hanging your own paintings and feeling satisfied every time you see them.
I’m not saying become Amish or remind your kids how much you hate the electronics they love but maybe get going with a hobby yourself to start with (most of my clients’ parents don’t have one either). Expose them to creativity in this way and encourage them to make something cool. I’m about to knit some square blankets to give to the Animal Welfare League. Mixing humanity and kindness into it will also help your kids become exactly the kind of caring, happy humans we want them to be.