Loneliness – How we can help?

 

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Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

 

Loneliness – sadness because someone has no friends or company. A feeling of isolation.

Working with children over the years, I have often noticed or been told how lonely some of them feel. They are surrounded by their class friends, have family or other important people around them and yet they feel alone.
I am not just talking about those children who always seem to walk around the playground by themselves, or the ones who nobody partners, sometimes, they are the ones that everyone flocks around. This is because loneliness is not just the feeling of not being with someone, it is more of a connection.
Having no friends, nobody to connect with is lonely. You may be ‘ok’ with who you are, not every lonely person wonders what is wrong with themselves, but not connecting is something different. Watching others laughing and playing is difficult and the yearning to join in is immense. Seeing friendships build and grow, knowing that they have somebody special to confined in, to share secrets, ideas, funny situations is hard and will only exasperate the emotion.
I have seen children who after time begin to stop trying make friends with their peers, occasionally they begin to play with younger children as younger children simply enjoy ‘no strings attached fun.’ Other children begin to remove themselves from groups and prefer to play or spend time on their own as the pressure to fit in becomes too great, but deep down, this is absolutely not what they want and they have somehow lost the skill of how to socialise, how to be their true selves and they start to loose their self-worth.
Children with speech, language and communication difficulties often have barriers when it comes to making friendships. Not all children granted, but I’ve observed first hand (many, many times over the years) how hard it is for these children, and others with ADHD, ASD and children suffering with mental health issues, to engage in friendships when a friend is all they desire and need. It’s heartbreaking to see them struggle in this area and loneliness is often a result of strained communication and being misunderstood. I bet you can all think of a tie when you thought someone was aloof, snooty, or rude because of their behaviour, when actually they were just shy and unable to engage in conversation as easily or readily as others.
I’ve witnessed children who try so hard to make friends that they begin to become angry or frustrated. They deliberately sabotage games in order to be noticed, begin controlling events to claw some respect and even turn to bullying. This is probably not what you expected to hear. Bullies are horrible right? Actually no! What goes on behind a bully’s behaviour can be incredibility sad or worrying. Apart from addressing their choice of angry or controlling outburst, you need to look beyond and find out what is behind the behaviour. There is always something behind the behaviour.
The worrying aspect about loneliness is what happens inside the mind. The thoughts and feelings which accompany the daily windmill of emotions spinning round and around. Self sabotage, suicidal thoughts, the deep sense of not being worthy, clever, funny, beautiful, popular etc. With time, children may resign to themselves to these thoughts, worse, believe them and gradually become numb, pushing their unhappiness and the loneliness deep within their soul. Eventually, everything becomes normal, it becomes ‘ok’ to be by themselves. But is isn’t!
Every living person or animal needs to feel love, that they are important, they are trusted, respected and listened to. We all need physical touch and emotional support. We are born social creatures. To be living without this is heartbreaking.
A lovely, simple gesture to give a lonely child is a smile, some time to listen (really listen), give a compliment, offer to play a game with them, engage in conversation and let them know how wonderful they are, because they will be.
However what about those confident, outwardly cheery children, the ones who seem happy and bright? How can they possibly be lonely? Everyone feels lonely sometimes. Some are good at hiding it, again pushing the feelings deep within and not allowing them to surface. We never know what is going on behind closed doors. So lets be observant, by regularly checking in with our children and others and hopefully we can make a difference and build positive relationships and trust – these children may even open up to us so we can help. Everyone needs a friend. Make sure we are all a good one.

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