Just For Fun

Can Kids Embrace JOMO, Too?
They Can — with Books!

by Iva-Marie Palmer

Photo credit: Hero Images, Hero Collection/Getty Images

It shows up every month in the vestibule of our library, alongside the free weekly newspapers and library event flyers: a fairly thick free magazine that includes a calendar of things to do with kids around our city. Flipping through, I can pinpoint at least a dozen activities my sons, ages eight and four, would LOVE. In my mind’s eye, I can see the Instagram photos of my kiddos at a hands-on science workshop, amidst the colorful chaos of a drop-in art class, or holding a program for a matinee show at an utterly picturesque theater. Every listing seems like a surefire way to enrich or delight my kids — hey, probably both at once.

Of course, that would mean DECIDING which events to attend. It would also require fitting in these activities alongside the sports practices, art classes, after-school programs, and birthday parties already on our schedule. Plus, we already have memberships to a few museums in Los Angeles, we love the beach, and we spend time at our local libraries and parks. There’s probably other stuff I’m missing and … oh, no, what am I missing?!

And just like that, I’ve sparked my Fear of Missing Out, or FOMO.

The term “FOMO” was originally coined in 2000 but has picked up a lot more traction in recent years. Nowadays our access to social media feeds allows us to see a live stream of what other people are doing, what exactly we’re “missing out” on. Couple that with so many options for things to do, and it becomes hard to say no to filling in our calendars. We worry that opting out might cost our family some happiness it could have had otherwise.

So, what’s a parent to do? The answer might be doing far less. Or JOMO.

JOMO, or the Joy of Missing Out, is all about focusing on what brings you actual joy, feeling content with missing out on what others are doing, and disconnecting as a form of self-care, according to the JOMO Project, created by Catherine Price, author of How to Break Up with Your Phone. JOMO reminds us that we’re allowed to not do every activity, all of the time. We’re allowed to sit still. We’re allowed to ignore our social feeds when we want to.

You might be asking yourself, “But what is there to DO if the whole family stays in?” That’s where books come in. Independent reading might just be the ideal approach to JOMO for book lovers. Where FOMO can cause anxiety and even physical symptoms like sweating or panic, and constantly switching gears on our phones or posting about our experiences might make it difficult for form new memories, reading can reduce stress, increase our memory capacity, and is connected with greater empathy.

In other words, your family probably needs a JOMO day (or even a JOMO few hours) built around reading.

So, how do you plan a JOMO day? You make it as simple as possible. The next time you’re debating between several different options, call the whole thing off. Instead, block out time to partake in some JOMO. When the time comes, have everyone in the family put their devices in a basket. Allow your kids to pick a spot that’s comfy for them. Have snacks ready. Let everyone choose the kind of book they want to read — don’t make this about catching up on homework or reading at a certain grade level. (After all, prohibiting kids from choosing their own books is a surefire way to discourage the reading habit.) Graphic novels, magazines, comic books, and even fact-filled reference books (my older son can get lost in a National Geographic almanac for hours) are just as valuable for JOMO purposes as chapter books or novels.

When your JOMO time arrives — here’s the most important part — drop what you’re doing and start reading as a family. This includes you, parents! Don’t use your kids’ quiet time to be productive, much as you might have the urge. Don’t worry about what else you have to do. The whole point of JOMO is to contentedly abandon these sources of stress. It might take you a few tries or pages, but trust me when I say getting absorbed in a book becomes easier with practice. (Also, parents who read for fun on a daily basis are six times more likely to have kids who read daily.)

While certain obligations might make regular JOMO time impossible, I’m resolving to find at least one chunk of time per month to check out together. I, for one, can’t wait to JOMO and embrace doing nothing with my children … except reading and reclaiming some precious calm.