Are kids that are homeschooled predisposed to be lonely? Have I destined my kids to either be excessively shy or obnoxiously excited?
“Socialize,” they say. “Allow children to play in a group of their peers,” authorities preach.
It seems like there is almost a mandate against children being at home with just their family because this goes against the current popular thought.
We are given pamphlets and handouts at the doctor’s office to mark our child’s milestones. They tell us to be sure to have them on schedule for all of their developmental needs. So it’s natural to start thinking of a child’s needs as a checklist:
- Food and Shelter
- Faith and Family
- Exercise and Activities
Planned. Organized. In the box. But is that truly how anyone feels cared for?
The first warning sign of loneliness in kids isn’t an “alone” behavior. It’s actually seen clearly when a child is about to be in a group. Aggressive excitement.
Before I even begin to explain my thought here, I want to say I’m all about excitement. Or at least I’m trying to be. I have been relearning how to be carried away by the good feelings that being alive brings. Excitement is a good thing.
And it is a very good thing for children to express their excitement.
So what is “aggressive excitement”?
It is when a person uses their excitement to forcefully get others’ attention. It can also be a false excitement. When a person covers up insecurity with aggressive positivity.
And let me be frank, this behavior in kids can be frustratingly annoying. These kids are usually not “rule followers” and they don’t seem easily contained. It can feel like the only solution for this almost-out-of-control excitement is to give them over to their peers and retreat as quickly as possible.
So how does this behavior show signs of loneliness?
They appear hyper, happy, and eager to be with others. This is the kid who does not seem to be lonely at all. The concern is that these little people are desperate to have their inner need for identity met within a 1 hour social engagement. The let down from any activity leaves them feeling drained and even depressed. Consequently, they have learned to put on this aggression in an attempt to force the engagement fill their need.
Often there are multiple emotional needs not being met in a child who becomes aggressively happy. This magnification of positive feelings reveals that this child has a lot of missing positive feelings and therefore they are trying to “make up for” what they lack.
Possible missing emotional needs are: security, identity, belonging, and responsibility.
What can I do to help a child who acts this way?
First, don’t retreat and don’t avoid social engagements. Again, this is the child who is excited to be around friends. Don’t take that away to solve the aggressiveness problem. Stay with them. Talk to them throughout the activity.
Second, stay calm. All children model what they see. If you want calm children, you must be calm.
Third, don’t focus on correcting their aggression. Build into their sense of identity by spending extra quality time with them at home. In their safest environment, start to encourage them to express their feelings through activities other than social times. Try listening to music, looking at old family photos, going on a walk (or to the indoor nature center if it is too cold outside), or baking cookies together. Somehow make it a point to invest more of your emotions into building up theirs.
Fourth, take note of when you see aggressive behavior and when they seem most calm. If observing your child doesn’t feel natural, then take time off from other activities at home in order to focus on them. Maybe you need to spend spring break entirely engaged by figuring out their patterns. Simply jot down what they are doing when they seem most excited, note how long the excitement lasts, and then note what they were like when the excitement was over. Get to know your child’s highs and lows.
If social engagements are consistently off the charts with excitement, take time to consider if your child needs a break from such emotionally charged situations. One clue that this is the case is if they are also completely drained after the engagement.
One thing I’ve made a point to communicate to my kids is that I have protective instincts. They know I’m willing to fight for them. And they have seen me do it. I’m willing to go to bat so that they don’t have to. I’m also willing to fight them for their best interest. They are still too young to know exactly what is best for them.
They can be at rest knowing that I take responsibility to do what is best for them so that they do not have to be aggressive to do what is best for themselves.
Support them, comfort them, and be their safe place. Regardless of what educational philosophy you hold, be on the look out for these signs and be prepared to help the kids in your life.
This is part one of the Warning Signs of Loneliness in Kids. If you missed the Intro to this series or the list of topics to be covered, check it out here.