There are many reasons why kids with learning and attention issues might feel lonely. They may not have friends who want to spend time with them. They may have casual acquaintances but not know how to relate to other kids in a meaningful way. Or they may be surrounded by people but feel isolated because these people don’t share or understand their challenges.
Research shows that children with learning and attention issues are more likely to struggle with loneliness than their peers. They may have a harder time coping with feelings that come with loneliness.
They may also find it harder to entertain themselves when they’re alone. For example, restlessness, reading struggles or a short attention span can make it hard for a child to enjoy solitary activities like reading a book or painting.
Not all children who spend a lot of time alone are lonely. And children who are around other kids can feel lonely, too. A child who is lonely feels sad because he has no friends or feels emotionally isolated.
If your child is struggling with these feelings, it’s important to help him. Children who struggle with ongoing loneliness may be:
- More likely to develop low self-esteem. A child who is lonely may feel that others are rejecting him. He may lose confidence in himself and eventually believe he has nothing valuable to offer.
- Less likely to take positive risks. Trying new things can build confidence and lead to new interests and skills. But a child who’s already feeling rejected and vulnerable may not want to take this leap. He may be afraid to call attention to himself and risk failure.
- More likely to be sad, disconnected and worried. Kids deal with their loneliness in different ways. They may keep their sadness inside, pull away from others and become even more isolated. Or they may become angry and act out. Their aggressive or hostile behavior may then push others further away. These negative feelings combined with continued isolation can lead to depression and anxiety.
- More likely to engage in risky behaviors. Teens may smoke, abuse drugs, vandalize property or do other risky things if they think it will help them feel accepted.
There are many ways to help your child handle feelings of loneliness. Try not to force him to become more social or to make lots of friends. Instead, try to help him build confidence.
Take a look at specific ways to help grade-schoolers, middle-schoolers and high-schoolers who are dealing with loneliness. You can also explore Parenting Coach for expert tips on helping your child fit in, interact with peers and adults, deal with anxiety and more.