My son spends a lot of time by himself. He gets totally engrossed in building robots and other solo projects. But I keep wondering if he truly likes being alone or if he’s secretly lonely. How can I tell the difference?
It’s great that your child seems like he’s comfortable spending time by himself. It sounds like he has a lot of great projects, too. Good for you for supporting him to do the thing he loves.
The question of whether he’s lonely is a tricky one. There are really two parts to that question. One is the issue of how he feels. Does he feel happy being on his own? Or is he sad about that?
The second part of the question is whether it would be good, even if he’s happy on his own, for him to spend more time with kids his age.
Check in with your son to see if he’s making social connections. Instead of asking “How was school?” ask him more specific questions. Here are a few examples of questions you can ask:
“Who did you sit with at lunch today? What did you talk about?”
“What did you do at recess today? Who were you with?”
“Did you do any work with friends today? Were you happy about who you were working with?”
“Did anyone do anything really funny or interesting today? What did you do?”
“Did you have any free time in class today? What did you do? Why did you choose that?”
“Were you in class early today? What did you do before school started?”
“Is there anyone in your class that you think you might want to have over?”
These kinds of questions can give you a sense of whether your child is lonely or not, and also if he’s learning the social skills needed to be with other people.
Remember that kids are born with different personalities. Some kids tend to be more comfortable with friends, and some are more comfortable on their own.
If you think your child is lonely, there are steps you can take.