Parents hate to think their child might be lonely. Few things are worse to a kid than feeling left out of a playgroup, or like they don’t have anyone to hang out with at lunch, or as if they’re invisible to their peers. Instead, you want them to have friends they connect with and engage in healthy social interactions.
Loneliness isn’t healthy for kids or adults. And it’s not something that we should ignore. Extended periods of loneliness can lead to social isolation, anxiety, despair, and even depression. The first step toward warding off loneliness is to recognize the signs and clues that your child may be feeling lonely.
Below are seven events and behaviors that may signal your child is lonely.
- Recent Family Changes
If you’ve recently moved to a new neighborhood, city, or state, your child will probably experience some initial loneliness. Other family changes that can create loneliness include the birth of a new sibling, an older sibling leaving home, divorce, or a parent’s new job.
- Withdrawal or Expressing Sadness
If your child is on the quieter side or is an introvert, they may enjoy spending lots of time alone. But if you notice your child spending more time by themselves than usual, pay attention. Perhaps they’ve had an argument with a neighbor kid they used to play with or a friend at school, leading to loneliness.
Also, sadness often accompanies loneliness. It’s hard to feel happy if you feel left out or don’t have peers to hang out with. Pay attention to your child’s moods. Do they seem more sad than usual? Are they crying frequently? These are both things that can indicate loneliness.
- Talks about Feeling Left Out
Your child may not have precise words or vocabulary to express loneliness, but they may describe it in other terms. They do this by telling you that they feel left out at school or in other events. If this happens repeatedly, consider loneliness as a cause.
- Won’t Leave Your Side
A lonely kid may be so desperate for interaction and attention that they become very clingy toward their parents or caregivers. While this is normal for babies and little kids, children usually grow out of it.
- Doesn’t Talk About Social Activities
If your child never talks about what they did with classmates on the playground or who they interacted with in the lunchroom, it may be because they are not interacting at all. This is often a sign of loneliness.
- Attention Seeking
Some lonely kids try really hard to get attention, both from their parents and from other kids. They can do this in several ways. Some will start acting out. Others will work on becoming a little comic or find another way to be the center of attention. Kids and teens who are lonely may also display other behavioral changes. They might develop imaginary friends when they previously had none. They may become disruptive, both at home and school.
- Loss of Interest
Kids and teens who are lonely may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. It could be that a friend left their shared sports team or your teen’s favorite bandmate moved away. Without someone close to share the activity with, your child may become lonely and lose interest in an activity they once loved.
Loneliness can make you believe that you are on an island, but everyone experiences loneliness from time to time. It’s an inevitable part of life. If your child is feeling lonely, we recommend these Four Ways to Help Your Child Cope with Loneliness because humans are created and wired for connection—meaningful connection.