Nurturing Connection: How Therapy Helps Children and Teens Cope with Loneliness

Sometimes, when children or teens feel lonely, they don’t know how to express their desire for connection and may escape into solitary activities. If you can answer yes to any of these questions, your child may be experiencing loneliness.

  • Does your teen retreat to their room and avoid being near family members?
  • Does your child or teen spend most of their free time on screens, without any peers to play or talk with?
  • When your child shares updates about other kids at school, do you suspect your child isn’t actually “part of the group?”
  • Does your child seem sad, withdrawn, or not included in events or social gatherings?

Loneliness can be prompted by factors including social isolation, bullying, changes in family dynamics, or even academic pressure. And it can be a challenging emotion for children and teens to navigate.

How Parents Can Help

As children age, parents can no longer arrange play dates, but they can help facilitate opportunities to be around peers. Here are some opportunities for helping your child experience a sense of belonging to a larger group:

  • Encourage them to join a church youth group, sports team, club/special interest group (e.g., robotics), musical group (band, choir, orchestra), or scouting organization.
  • Bring your child/teen with you to volunteer for a cause that is important to your family.
  • Arrange for your family to help a neighbor with yard work or house cleaning.
  • Make/write cards to send to distant relatives or a local nursing home.

How Therapy Can Help

  • Encouraging open communication
    Providing a safe space for children and teens to express their feelings is foundational. Therapists encourage open communication by actively listening, validating the individual’s emotions, and fostering a non-judgmental environment. This establishes trust, making it easier for children and teens to share their experiences of loneliness.
  • Developing Emotional Intelligence
    A key goal of therapy is to foster emotional intelligence, or the ability to recognize and manage emotions effectively. Children and teens with enhanced emotional intelligence can navigate social situations with greater ease. Age-appropriate activities, such as journaling or discussing hypothetical scenarios, can help therapy clients understand and express their emotions.
  • Fostering Social Skills
    Building strong social skills is a key component of combating loneliness. Therapists help clients to develop effective communication, active listening, and conflict resolution skills. Role-playing and group activities can be valuable tools for practicing and reinforcing these skills in a supportive environment.
  • Facilitating Peer Connections
    Helping children and teens establish and maintain connections with their peers is crucial for alleviating loneliness. Support group activities, clubs, or sports that align with their interests can provide teens and children with the shared experiences that create opportunities for bonding and can lead to lasting friendships.
  • Addressing Bullying and Social Challenges
    For those experiencing loneliness due to bullying or social challenges, therapeutic interventions can include strategies to cope with these issues. A therapist can teach assertiveness skills, establish a support network, and work collaboratively with schools to create a safe and inclusive environment.
  • Strengthening Family Connections
    Family support plays a crucial role in combating loneliness. Oftentimes therapists will collaborate with parents to strengthen family bonds and foster a nurturing home environment. Regular family activities, open communications, and understanding are all encouraged to provide children and teens with a strong foundation of support.

Working Together to Help Young People Cope

Addressing loneliness in children and teens requires a multifaceted approach that considers each person’s unique circumstances. Fortunately, parents aren’t alone. At BRAINS, our therapists can provide children and teens guidance, support, and tools for building resilience and meaningful connection. By fostering emotional intelligence, social skills, and a sense of belonging, we can empower your child or teen to navigate the challenges of loneliness and thrive in their relationships. Learn more by calling us at 616-365-8920.