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.

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