Loneliness can have an adverse effect on anyone. Children are certainly no exception. In fact, loneliness is a common issue among kids. It is typically brought on by a number of factors.
Problems at school can often lead to loneliness. Events such as encountering a bully or dealing with a close friend moving away can quickly bring on feelings of social isolation. Outside of school, lack of self-confidence or a major change at home can also lead to chronic feelings of loneliness.
Obviously, it doesn’t feel good to be lonely. Long-term loneliness can have a pronounced effect on a child’s physical and mental health, as well as his or her social life. Prolonged periods of loneliness can lead to digestive problems and trouble sleeping.
Being lonely isn’t healthy for anybody. But, it can sometimes be more detrimental to a child. Why? The answer is a simple one. Loneliness has a serious impact on a child’s success in school, which can take years of recovery to correct.
In addition, many children don’t understand why they are lonely. Young children may go so far as to think something is wrong with them. Unfortunately, this can lead to even more complex issues, which are even more difficult to get under control.
Here are a few things you can do when children feel lonely. Depending on the severity of their loneliness, it may be easier to cheer them up than you think.
Keep Them Busy
Keep your child busy with a hobby or their favourite activity. This generally combats loneliness, at least for as long as they remain occupied. If hobbies are not an option, consider taking them to the park or local activity centre. Participating in sports or joining a club at school are two more options. Who knows? They may even end up making new friends in the process.
Encourage Children to Open Up
It can be difficult for kids who are shy to make friends. This can ultimately leave them with few people to talk to. Encourage your child to meet new people and to be open about themselves to their friends… just not too open (to be safe, be sure to set limits). This is the first step toward kids feeling more confident and outgoing in the future.
Spend Quality Time Together
Not being able to spend enough time with parents is a major cause of loneliness in children. If your schedule is keeping you from interacting with your child, make sure you set aside at least 60 minutes a day to talk to them about the things going on in their lives. Please note, this amount of time is the bare minimum. Spending time together goes a long way toward making kids feel less isolated.
Build Up Your Child’s Confidence
A lack of self-confidence can lead to serious feelings of loneliness. It’s easy to let children know they are capable and talented, simply by praising their good work and accomplishments. If a child doesn’t succeed at something, encourage that child in regard to the positive aspects of what they’ve done rather than focusing on what may have gone wrong.
Remember, being lonely can cause feelings of anxiety, depression and poor self-image. Children affected by loneliness have been known to exhibit hostile, antisocial, or self-destructive behavior. They also tend to experience a negative impact on their memory and learning abilities.
You can help your child manage loneliness, even when he or she may not realize what they are feeling. It’s important to keep an eye out for signs that your child may be lonely. Kids may not always come to their parents when they need a little help.
by Barbara D. Ingersoll and Sam Goldstein
by Lawrence E. Shapiro