Loneliness isn’t something that only adults feel when caught up in the daily grind or isolated from loved ones--children can feel lonely as well. Lonely children may feel purposeless and rejected, predisposing them to negative consequences both in the short term as well as when they grow up to be adults. In fact, a study on the national loneliness score revealed that social isolation among young American people is much higher than with older ones.
Your child might be feeling lonely if you notice that they always come out of school alone, they do not go out with friends or invite them over, or they spend a lot of time alone in their room. They may not realize why they’re feeling emotionally downtrodden, but as a parent, educator, or guidance leader, you may be able to help children overcome loneliness.
What are the reasons why a child may feel lonely?
A child’s loneliness may be due to several reasons.
- The anxiety of the primary caregiver may translate to toddlers and young children, thus making them unable to interact with others and make friends.
- Children having learning or attention issues have also been found to struggle with feelings of loneliness.
- Your child may not have adequate opportunities to be around other kids of the same age group.
- A highly individualistic personality may make it difficult to relate to other children.
- If the child spends too much time on an iPad or smartphone or computer, that is another reason why they may not have enough friends and then feel lonely. Social media and heavy internet usage has been found to increase feelings of loneliness.
- Many children are also so burdened with homework and extra-curricular activities that they do not get enough time to socialize. The end result is loneliness.
How can you help a lonely child?
- Find out what exactly is causing the problem and address it
It may simply be that your child is spending way too much time glued to their gaming console, and thus not socializing enough. If this is the case, simply limit their screen time. If you are unable to take them to the playground due to work commitments, ask for help from a friend or family member or seek out community after-school programs. The key is to identify the root cause of the problem and take steps to address it.
- Lead by example
If you were lonely as a child, or you still are even as an adult, your child may be subconsciously mirroring you. Take proactive steps to talk to other parents and this will show your child how to strike up conversations with others. When they watch you interacting with others, children will pick up the necessary skills required to make and keep friends.
- Find ways for participating in more group activities
You can check if there are any group activities in your area that your child may be interested in. Schools may be able to suggest the different options that are available. You may also set up play dates at your home and invite other children over.
- Invite other parents over
Some children may want to make friends, but they are too shy to take the first step and start talking. You can invite the other child’s parents over, thus creating an opportunity for both children to start communicating in a safe and comfortable environment and become friends.
- Seek help if you need to
Very often, you may be able to help with your child’s loneliness by giving them a gentle push and creating opportunities for them to socialize more. However, if your concerns have been going on for a long time, it may have other underlying reasons that you are not able to get to. Do not hesitate to seek professional advice if that is the case.
While children may grow out of some “phases” and tendencies, always take that advice with a grain of salt. Kids may do interesting things, but their upbringing and childhood will shape their foundation for adulthood and how to approach life. Giving your children the tools and mental strength they need to succeed early on can carry on for a lifetime.
About the author: Brett Farmiloe is a contributing writer for Online Counseling Programs, a comprehensive guide for counseling degree programs and career paths.