How to Help a Child Struggling with Loneliness :: Conclusion to the Lonely Kids Series

Lonely Kids Conclusion 3

I was lonely as a child, and that’s why I have compassion for lonely kids. I hid my loneliness mostly because I didn’t know how to articulate it. My bad feelings about myself, my free time, my lack of support, and lack of understanding relationships came out in dramatic behavior.

This was all by age 7. Even younger than that, I remember thinking: If I were gone, no one would notice.

I wasn’t lonely for a lack of people. I went to a brick and mortar school with lots of classmates and adults buzzing around.

The danger of loneliness is that it is subtle. It’s the difference between doing together and being together. As I modeled what I thought was the right way to behave and make friends, I sunk deeper into just doing my life.

Fast forward to my daughter turning 7, and I started to recognize some of the same old symptoms of loneliness in her. Seeing this in her, I was propelled into an all-out campaign to help her and other kids too.

Lonely Kids Conclusion 2

In my effort to help and teach my daughter to see her bad behavior and the bad feelings behind them, I saw her emotional state get worse.

I think we’re all (even the youngest ones) too quick to pick up false guilt.

Since that isn’t what I wanted to happen, I had to get perspective and start over. I committed to support her in the journey of learning who she can become. I’m taking the long view; not ignoring her bad behavior but setting it into context. Character, talents, interests, and influences all impact behavior.

When I was a child, there wasn’t enough time to pursue my interests. I wasn’t given the opportunity to let my talents emerge and grow. Not knowing my own interests led me to feel useless, and that isn’t what I want for my kids. As their mother, and specifically as a homeschooling mother, I am given new opportunities to support my kids in their character, talents, and interests every day. I have the greatest influence on them.

Having an intentional influence on them is a matter of vision. Short term sees bad behavior and just wants to make it change. Long term sees the roots and patiently tends to the heart of the behavior.

Lonely Kids Conclusion 1

Here are 4 focal points for learning how to see the roots and provide kids with support:

  1. Identity: Knowing who I am helps me know how I need to be supported. Who am I? Who am I becoming? Who do I belong to? Who wants me? What do I allow to label me? What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? Identity is a standing stone. It is something to cling to when no one else is around to support or provide companionship. If I show my children that I have a strong sense of identity then they are one step closer to feeling the confidence of knowing their own identity.
  2. Advocacy: Finding a companion isn’t a matter of convenience, rather it’s a commitment. How willing am I to work on behalf of my child to bring other people into their life? Not only do children need healthy peer relationships, but they also need mentors and older kids to look up to too. Where are these people? What are my child’s interests and how can I coordinate people with these activities to better strengthen my child’s confidence? When I think of being my child’s advocate, I picture myself as a manager of their emotional needs. Taking inventory of fun, creativity, outdoor and indoor activities, curiosity, healthy excitement, down time, etc. and balancing it all. Not perfectly but intentionally.
  3. Modeling: Prioritizing healthy relationships with others that provide me with the support and companionship that I need. No one out grows the need for friends. When I’m lonely and unsupported, my kids see it and they suffer too. I want my kids to see me committed to others, and willing to sacrifice for the sake of understanding and loving other people. Aren’t kids always just practicing adults? I want to give my kids a good example of what to practice.
  4. Family Bonds: Being together and knowing love is a vital need for all of us. We are designed to thrive in supportive relationships. Creating a healthy home community starts with encouragement. Words, time, attention, concern, physical touch, traditions, etc. these are all the currency we have to spend on our children in ensuring they enjoy a rich family life. A life of being together on purpose.

As my kids grow older, I’ve realized they also grow less dependent on me to meet their social needs. Rather they need me to be their mentor, providing opportunities for friendships and bonds to flourish on top of their solid foundation of identity and belonging. They need help in order to recognize what being feels like for them.

Loneliness doesn’t have to be a life-long battle. Let’s break the cycle and step in to help.

Additional Resources:

Articles:

Books*:

Experts:

Please feel free to contact me (Cara {at} TheHomeLearner {dot} com) personally if I can be of any help to you individually. Click here to sign up for more from The Home Learner and get your free PDF guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose statement.

*Affiliate links: Any product you choose to purchase through these links benefits this site at no cost to you. Thanks!

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.

Or:

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.

Don't miss a post click here to sign up and get a free PDF Guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.