We think of loneliness as something that old people experience, but if you really thought about the children around you, you may see that some of them are lonely too. It is really sad when I stumble across a child who feels lonely at school because they feel they have no friends and don’t fit in. They don’t think others like them and so keep themselves to themselves. Most of them are just fine at home but school is a real problem.
Some of these children are lonely having just started secondary school. Others feel lonely despite being at the same school for years. But something has changed – the reaction from the students around them or the way they feel about who they are. Even children who spend time on social media and have heaps of friends can feel lonely especially if they are comparing themselves to the lives of others.
Dealing with Loneliness
What can we do with this loneliness? Parents need to help these children feel stronger about who they are – here’s how.
1. We can help children to have a positive identity – what qualities do they have and what do they have to offer other children?
2. Teach them not to compare themselves to others and help them see how many positives they have.
3. Parents need to challenge the negative thoughts of ‘I don’t fit in’ and help your child to discover that they can fit in, but not with the people that they think they should fit with. They may need to spend more time finding their tribe.
4. Look at who they can be friends with at school – who do they think could be a friend?
5. Help them with what to say, how to say it and how to behave around other children to encourage friendships.
6. Encourage children to join in with an activity (at school) that they are not currently doing so they can meet other children that way.
7. Teach them not to mind read. They may think others don’t like them or want to talk to them, but the other child may also be shy or feeling lonely! Don’t make presumptions about others behaviour.
These are just a few ideas that I hope you find helpful. Does your child experience loneliness at school and how have you helped them to tackle it? Would love to hear about your experiences.