When Teens Feel Lonely
Teens in this day and age want to be entertained all the time. They don’t know what to do with “downtime.” An important independent living skill that everyone needs is the ability to cope with loneliness (or lack of entertainment). Everyone is lonely sometimes. Whether your child is going to college, moving to a new town, losing a friend, or starting a new job, they will confront loneliness. Young people who have no coping skills for being lonely are more likely to make poor decisions about where to live or with whom to live or how to feel better. Teens who learn that loneliness is a temporary feeling, and how to use a support system to combat it, will be more successful in reaching their life goals.
You can help your teen learn to deal with loneliness with these tips:
- Talk to your teen about loneliness. Use your child’s everyday life to help them understand that loneliness is normal and it doesn’t last forever. If they are headed to summer camp for a week, explain that they will probably feel lonely at first, and that’s okay, but by the end of the week, they will have made new friends. Then use the opportunity to help them think of healthy things they can do to make themselves feel better if they are lonely.
- Explain that being alone is not the same as being lonely. To be a healthy person, we need to be comfortable in our own skin, and you can never really discover who you are, if you are constantly surrounded by other people. If we never experience aloneness, our relationships will likely become very dependent. Encourage your teen to engage in positive alone-time activities. Reading, drawing, journaling, exercising, crafting and listening to music are activities that your teen can enjoy by themselves without feeling lonely.
- Connect with friends. Calling a friend and inviting them to do something is a learned skill. Encourage your child to ask someone over to watch a movie or play a video game. This will provide your teen with practice at connecting with others.
- Help your teen learn to broaden his/her horizons. Show your teen all that is offered in your community. Help your teen consider what their passions might be and then help them find classes, clubs, sports, or organizations that support their interests. When your life has a purpose, your need for support lessens. Additionally, joining a group that has the same interests automatically provides a sense of belonging and well-being. This tip also provides you another chance to teach another life skill… parents should show teens how to find community activities, not do it for them. By teaching them how to find resources and encouraging them to sign themselves up, you are helping them to be prepared to do the same thing in their adult lives.
- Suggest ways your teen can connect with family and loved ones. Especially with the Internet, there are so many ways that teens can connect with their family and friends. Email, online social networking, texting and making phone calls are technological methods for connection. But don’t rely on media, remind teens to connect personally. Suggest they schedule a regular walking date with a family member or a regular coffee date with a friend. Take a kayaking lesson or exercise class with someone. The key is to show your teen that there many options for connection.
- Encourage service. There are a number of benefits your child will receive by volunteering their time to those less fortunate. They will feel good about themselves and the experience will bring more meaning to their life. They will realize that they really are one of the more fortunate people in the world which increases their own sense of gratitude for what they have. Even better, service organizations attract the kind of people who have the potential of becoming great friends – your teen will meet others, be part of a group, and engage in new experiences. Be sure to show your teen how to find volunteer opportunities that speak to their heart.
Teaching your child coping skills for loneliness now will help them to be successful and make healthy choices when they confront loneliness as an adult.