Friends and friendships are great when things are going well, but life can feel pretty miserable and stressful if a young person is struggling to make friends, or when there are arguments and fallings out.
Loneliness is an emotion that many young people may feel from time to time. Loneliness can often arise from a young person feeling dissatisfied with either the quantity or quality of the social connections and relationships they have with others. Loneliness can also result from feeling misunderstood, uncared for by others, or if they are somehow ‘different’ from their peer group. This means that even if a young person appears to have many friends or people to ‘hang out with’ inside or outside of school, they may still experience feelings of loneliness.
What it might look like if a young person is struggling with feelings of loneliness:
Low self-esteem; thinking or believing they are not good enough or expressing a desire to punish themselves – they may make statements of worthlessness or hopelessness
Appearing uncaring or unbothered about people or activities they previously would have cared about. This may lead to not honouring commitments or responsibilities which is uncharacteristic
Emotionally labile; frequent changes of emotion, more sensitive (eg, irritable, upset)
Flat, empty, numb, hopeless and helpless
Withdrawn and uncommunicative; may lead to refusal to leave the house, or attend/take part in activities such as school, hobbies, interests, seeing friends
Persistent efforts to engage with others and seek social contact
Seeking verbal reassurance and checking things are ok with others, including peers
Disrupted sleep; difficulties getting to, or staying asleep, waking very early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep, or oversleeping
Changes in appetite and eating behaviour; loss of appetite and reduced food and fluid intake, or an increase in appetite and consumption of food and fluids
Physical symptoms including headaches, digestive upset, pain
They may have thoughts about harming themselves or ending their life
Things that might help a young person if a young person experiences difficulties in their friendships or feelings of loneliness:
Acknowledging and normalising that it is usual to feel a range of emotions
Try to keep normal routines going as much as possible.
Encourage your young person to keep doing activities they enjoy and not avoid social opportunities when they arise.
If they are finding it hard to talk about how they feel, they might find it easier to write down how they are feeling rather than talk.
Remind young people: If they are being bullied, it is not their fault and they do not deserve to be abused or made to feel any less of a person.
Encourage young people to practice ‘safe social media use’- block, unfriend, mute and delete anyone or any group that is unhelpful. If social media is a problem; delete the apps on their account. Encourage the young person to turn their phone off at night.
Find hobbies and activities that will boost their self-esteem and confidence. Joining new groups or clubs will give them the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends
Finding ways to manage anxiety and stress can be very helpful. There are some techniques and strategies in the videos section below, which may be helpful
Share concerns with your child’s school/college and identify whether additional pastoral support is available
Help and support may be available from your child’s school nursing team.
Seek advice, guidance and support from Young Minds Parent Helpline: 08088025544