My Loneliness Story (Self-Destructing and Frustrated) :: Warning Signs of Loneliness in Kids, Part 6

No one would want to play with me anyway. I don’t have any friends. No one likes me, I’m dumb.


Why do you always… why can’t I ever… you never let me…

And it may be that both have been said by the same child. I know I said both.

People mean well when they want to help or fix these bad feelings. But it isn’t as easy as choosing not to be grumpy by putting on a smile. When the root of the matter isn’t being addressed the bad feelings grow and it becomes a habit. The struggling child expresses self-pity or disrespect consistently.

It is heartbreaking when adults ignore these signs because they label the child as “pitying themselves” or “rebelling against authority.” While both of those labels may be true and trained through with the child –it is feedback behavior.

Again, heavily focusing on these words and the feelings behind them are not going to produce the desired result. The words or the attitude isn’t the primary issue. The root of the issue isn’t that the child needs better self-esteem or deeper submission. Spending energy trying to train a child to put on a better attitude or to quiet their expressions will not stick. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a wound that needs stitches.

The pain from loneliness has been internalized and the child believes that they are wrong or broken for having needs that are going unmet. It causes a reaction of distrust and resentment toward parents for not knowing or helping the child.

In young children, this can also create a sense of panic or fear.

Fear and pain have a way of motivating us. I was a little powerhouse of words, attitudes, and emotions growing up. I would speak up to anyone: anytime, anywhere. Collecting labels that only grew more burdensome as I grew older. As my feedback behavior was being disciplined, punished, quieted – the pain grew and my fight with it. I tried every wrong way to force others to notice me and meet my needs for support and companionship, but very few adults could tolerate me.

This was true for me: hurt people, hurt people. And anyone close to me was hurt by me.

If only I could go back to my teen years and take back the awful things I said to my parents. The ongoing frustration I felt toward them was simply caused by misunderstandings and lack of communication. We addressed the surface issues, labeling actions and emotions as character flaws. But on my own, I didn’t have the tools to change my character – who I was becoming felt like a freight train that had lost its brakes.

Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, I became who we all feared I would become. The labels and the troubles crushed me.

It took me years to unravel the pain and fear. After the social stages of schooling, I was on my own and alone, and that’s when I began to understand how loneliness had been at the root of so much of my destructive behavior.

And after more than a decade of healing I am able to share and learn from this painful part of myself.

My Loneliness Story

Learning to work through pain and to help others is the motive behind writing this series. The amount of compassion I have for kids who are hurting is beyond my physical reach. That’s why I’m writing. If you’re reading this, anything you can gain from these observations can be used to heal and help provide support and companionship.

Also, lest I close the series leading anyone to believe I no longer struggle with loneliness allow me to reveal how I recognize red flags as an adult: I act is some counter intuitive ways. I put on personalities that aren’t mine, and they don’t fit. And it looks like one or more of these:

  • Suddenly becoming bubbly and outgoing, with a strong desire to be the life of the party
  • Spending money impulsively and a ravenous desire to have something I’ve been saying “no” to for a long time
  • Gradually becoming isolated: ignoring phone calls from close friends and family because I just don’t feel like being with anyone
  • Feeling panicky when I don’t know where my phone is – checking social media compulsively
  • Mismanaging time and emotions – becoming angry and frustrated with myself for an overall lack of discipline
  • Speaking negatively about myself to others and rejecting encouragement

Why is there an ongoing struggle with loneliness? Because it’s hard to ask for support when I feel unsupported. It looks weak, it feels vulnerable, and it requires reflection and work to resolve. Often, I don’t know where to start, I’m overwhelmed. Guilt lies to me.

Moving forward, I look at my core needs and work up from there: security, identity, and then belonging. And like Dr. Kathy Koch taught me: Belonging is “who wants me” not “who needs me.” Belonging is a need, and healthy relationships are possible.

If you’ve missed any of the other posts in this series, you can check out the titles here.

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Be Their Safe Place

Be their safe place

What comes to mind when you think of a “safe place?”

Your room growing up? A tree house? A favorite book or movie? Is it connected to a feeling, food, or friend?

Everyone needs a place where they feel invited and secure. A place where they belong.

I had the privilege of attending a conference a couple of years ago where I was introduced to Dr. Kathy Koch (“Cook”). Her seminar on the 5 Core Needs rocked my world.

This information wasn’t like the other seminars I had attended like: How to Homeschool with Toddlers or Struggling Readers. No the information Kathy shared went to the very heart of why it is the highest calling to be a parent.

I have the greatest influence on my children.

Whether their needs are met by me or someone else, I am accountable for them. At the end of the day, how I raise my children – the choices I make for their education, recreation, entertainment, etc. – will either feed them or starve them.

For weeks after the seminar, I observed my children. I took note of their personalities, the highs and lows of their days, their interests, and what got them excited. (Did you know that you can learn a lot about how your child is gifted by watching what they do when they become excited. Say something surprising happens – grandma stops over unexpectedly with a gift, they get a letter in the mail, or a friend calls to invite them for a playdate – the first thing they choose to do after receiving this often tells me what makes them feel the most alive.)

The reason I wanted to take the time to make my observations was so that I could best teach them. I felt like I had been failing them. I was forcing a curriculum that was boring, or I did understand their natural strengths.

The initial main goal was to figure them out. Graph their needs on paper.

And this I did. It was phenomenal. I saw my children in a whole new light. I started reading How Am I Smart, and saw just how the definitions of “word smart” or “picture smart” revealed the inner strengths of my children. I was constantly telling my husband about our children’s behavior and how their behavior fit into this new philosophy of nurturing them. I was with them and for them. They were fascinating to me. I was loving how much I was learning and discovering. It was like a whole new world of understanding was within my grasp.

They were blossoming quicker it seemed as I spend more and more time studying and encouraging them with my new found love of learning them.

Love of learning them

They loved it too.

I was becoming their safe place.

And over time, I realized that my initial goal was based on the wrong desire. Sure teaching my children is important – very important as a homeschooling family – but loving them, securing them, and allowing them to feel like they belong is so much more important.

How do I know that I’m their safe place? Because for my oldest that means being ready to receive her expressions at any given moment. She needs permission and space to pour out her creative passion for life. My middle needs my ear. He needs to be able to tell me anything at any time. He feels safe knowing that I want to listen. And my youngest needs to hug. He shows that he feels the most safe when wrapped up in my arms. It’s the first thing he does in the morning, and the last thing he does at night.

So how can you become your child’s safe place?

Here’s 4 ways to start focusing on building belonging:

  • Always be happy to see them even when days are long and nights are short. Think about your facial expression. My husband is a great mirror for me with this because it is not natural for me. Think about saying “I care about you” with just your eyes.
  • Affirm them in their gifts and talents. We all need reminders that we matter to our loved ones. Someone who shows me they are happy to see me boosts my satisfaction with myself and strengthens the bond of our relationship.
  • Earn their trust by meeting their needs (affection, food, fun, etc.) Meet their physical needs consistently. Don’t make them ask for everything. And don’t wait for them to tell you what their needs are. Study them.
  • Train their wants by doing life with them. Addressing their desires head on – do not trick, lie, or avoid their requests. Again, meet their needs, but don’t confuse them by always giving in to their wants. This doesn’t help them feel safe; it can make them feel too much responsibility. A child who behaves as if they are entitled to all their wants is actually more unhappy than a child who has a healthy view of their wants in light of their needs being met.

So did I figure my kids out? Yes and no. I’m still learning. I did chart their strengths and smarts. But more than that, I fell more in love with who they are, and they noticed. Our bond has grown deeper and our sense of security more sure.

Monday’s Mindset is: It’s worth the work to be their safe place.

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