As a parent, there are few things more heartbreaking than to see your child in tears because they’re lonely. Companionship is one of our most basic needs as humans, and it can be difficult for your child to process the complex feelings that result from a lack of relationship with their peers.
It’s important to realize that there are many reasons why your child could be lonely, and it isn’t necessarily due to the cruelty of other children. Some kids are naturally shy, others just have a hard time making friends for one reason or another. Try not to overreact in the moment. This way your child has the opportunity to express themselves and you can get to the root of the true issue.
Are they a loner, or are they lonely?
Your child’s personality will have a lot to do with the number of friends they want and need. A child who is more introverted and independent may be perfectly happy to spend more time alone and have one or two friends, whereas a more gregarious child may crave interaction and relationships with a larger circle of friends.
In many cases, children lack perspective on peer relationships. They fear judgement and rejection, and will often wait for someone to invite them to interact. Children are also, developmentally speaking, fairly egocentric and don’t always think to include other children. The self-assurance necessary to take a risk when approaching new children and the mindfulness to include others are both learned traits. They’re skills that must be taught and reinforced.
What Can You Do?
Independent children aren’t always shy. Shy children aren’t always introverted. So, it’s important to look for certain cues which will help you determine if there’s a problem that you can help solve.
If your child’s personality seems to change, if they no longer want to do things they used to or try to avoid going places they once enjoyed, you should talk to them about why this change has occurred. It could be that your child is experiencing contention with the other kids in those environments. Whether they got into an argument with their group of friends or they’re experiencing bullying, it’s important to talk to your child about why this occurred and what they can do to stop it.
If you know that your child is shy, but that they crave friendship, it’s important to facilitate opportunities to practice meeting and interacting with new people. Speaking up and asking to be included can be intimidating, but it’s an important skill to learn.
At St. Barnabas Episcopal School there are a variety of opportunities for your child to spend time interacting with their peers outside of the classroom. We offer many different extracurricular activities and sports which allow them to engage with other kids who have similar interests, making it easier to form friendships. Contact us to learn more about how a well rounded private school education can help your child succeed.