Loneliness is heavy on the heart and a very painful emotion. It makes you feel alone and left out. Usually Loneliness occur when your needs for social connection aren’t met.
Do you recognize feeling lonely despite being surrounded by people? Feeling lonely can occur to anyone, anytime and anywhere, it doesn’t matter how many or how few friends you have – some people just need two close friends while other needs at least 10.
That’s why it’s not the number of friends that determine whether you feel lonely, but how close you feel to those around and the depth of your relations. Everyone needs someone they feel close to.
Loneliness can occur anytime and anywhere.
For children and young people feeling lonely is often related to their social life at school or after-school, but this feeling can also occur if the child or young person experiences huge or sudden changes such as divorce, loss of parent or someone close or moving away.
Recently the rather comprehensive Covid-19 lockdown has made socializing difficult for everyone, but the situation is especially tough on those children and young people who already struggle with social interaction and they might feel that they can’t call and talk with anyone their own age.
Many people will at one point in their life feel alone, but for most of us this feeling only occur during certain periods in our life, and then it disappears again. But for some people loneliness becomes a permanent state.
Many children and young people feel lonely during longer periods of time. Børns Vilkår (a humanitarian organization in Denmark) estimate that 7 % of children and young people in Denmark between the ages 10-15 often feel lonely while 19 % only feel lonely sometimes. Amongst those between the ages 16-24, the Mary foundation estimate that for less than 12 % loneliness has become a constant fixture.
Loneliness can have a permanent impact
Passing loneliness is not dangerous. Usually you can regard feeling lonely as your body’s way of signaling that you need social contact with others. But when children and young people feel lonely during longer period of time, it can have severe consequence in their adult life.
Because loneliness can have a negative effect on one’s self-esteem, which means that loneliness can have infect fundamental parts of the child or the young person’s life such as their education; their personal growth; their mental health; their life quality; etc.
Children who feel lonely during longer period of time generally thrive way less than children who never or rarely feel lonely. Often you can tell if a child is thriving by how many bodily symptoms they complain about, e.g. constant headaches, abdominal pains and sleeplessness are indications of that the child isn’t thriving – across of age groups.
Talking about loneliness can be difficult
Many children and young people who feel lonely don’t talk about it. Maybe they keep quiet because they don’t have anyone they can confide in, but there could also be many other reasons.
Social media often portray a picture of how other kids and young people are a part of huge groups of close friends and have amazing relations with their peers. They rarely hesitate posting about all their socializing, which causes many children and young people and as a consequence to the other’s activity on social media they feel even more alone and left out.
Kids and young people have social norms amongst them which is one of the reasons why loneliness is seen as a taboo, and that is why many are ashamed of feeling lonely and it might be why they avoid talking about it altogether.
Others don’t wan’t to be a bother to others, so they keep quiet about being lonely. Others fear that they will be held accountable for their own loneliness and will be met with comments such as: “Maybe if you tried to be a little more engaging” or “you withdraw yourself from the others”.
Some are afraid of talking about their loneliness because they fear that no one will take their problem seriously. This is especially the case with kids and young people who from the outside seem like they have a lot of friends. Many explain that even though they hang out with a lot of their peers, they still feel lonely because these relationships are superficial.
Therefore, it is important to remember that loneliness is a subjective feeling that must always be taken seriously.
Good advice against loneliness
As you just learned, there are many reasons why it takes a lot of courage to talk about being lonely. That’s why we have gathered some good advice for you who feel lonely or for you who knows someone who feels lonely. Even though loneliness is a rather difficult feeling, it can be prevented and fought.
To you who are lonely:
- Be brave – ask for help. When you are lonely, it can be really difficult reaching out for help, if you don’t trust others because someone broke your trust. Taking the first step might be difficult, but when you do take that step, you’ll be one step closer to fighting the loneliness.
- Talk about the loneliness – and be honest. It will be easy for both you and those around you to figure out why you feel lonely when you admit it and say it out loud. Does people know you feel lonely? By expressing your loneliness, you take the first step into creating a closer relation to another person.
- Contact someone from your network, who you find kind and would like to get to know. You can also contact a humanitarian organization or a club which are concerned with topics you find interesting. Mabe you join the teatre group at your school or the chezzclub or maybe you help out at an animalshelter. This is a way of breaking the bad habbits of isolating yourself, which you do because of your loneliness.
For you who wants to help a friend who feels lonely:
- Talk about loneliness. Talk about your own experience with being lonely – it is a feeling we all will experience at some point. By talking about feeling lonely the feeling becomes more normal and less dangerous, and it is a way for you to ensure your friend that he or she aren’t all alone or wrong in feeling lonely.
- Open up to those around and invite others in, who might wanna be a part of your life – find communities in the real world and online. This way everyone will see your kindness and inclusiveness and you prevent that anyone will feel left out.
- Reach out to him or her you sense might be lonely. Offer them a piece of cake, suggest you play a board game at your house or go for a walk – never mind the activity. Are you a parent to a child who goes to school with someone who is feeling lonely, then encourage him or her to invite them home, even if they aren’t friends yet. This also gives you an opportunity to address how it is feeling lonely and why it is important that everyone help fight it.
- Be persistent. Keep on reaching out. If the person turns your offer down, then accept that and ask again another day. This is way for you to show that your stand by your offer and slowly build up trust in the one dealing with loneliness.