Parent / carer advice

Although it’s not something we like to think about, loneliness among young people has increased. A report by Sport England found that over 350,000 young people (Years 7-11, aged 11-16) said they feel lonely, which the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates to be 1 in every 9 young people.

Signs of loneliness can be hard to spot as young people struggle to open up about how they’re feeling. They may appear happy on the outside, when on the inside they feel lonely.  

A child choosing to be by themselves or enjoying their own company is different to loneliness. Therefore, it’s important to know what to look out for and where to go to seek help. 

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Loneliness affects people in different ways, including children.  

Sometimes they might seem sad or withdrawn and other times it may be more difficult to spot. Especially as children may find it hard to talk about their feelings, particularly if they feel like they don’t fit in or if they’re going through changes like moving to a new school.  

Therefore, it’s important to encourage children to open up and communicate with you or someone else they trust. You can also help your child find social activities or groups where they feel included to help them feel better and feel better and combat feelings of loneliness. 

Your child may feel lonely if they are dealing with:  

  1. Changes in their life, like moving to a new school or house. Even if it seems exciting for everyone else, it can be tough for a child. 
  2. Loss - losing someone close to them, whether it's a family member, pet, or friend. 

  3. Divorce - when parents or carers split up, kids might feel left out or unwanted, leading to loneliness. 

  4. Bullying - being bullied or left out can really hurt, making a child feel lonely. 

  5. Abuse - if a child has been hurt in the past, either physically or emotionally, it can make them feel lonely. 

  6. Children from families with very low or very high incomes are more likely to feel lonely compared to those in the middle. 

  7. Unfulfilling relationships - if there's a lot of arguing at home or if a child doesn't feel close to their parents or carers, they're more likely to feel lonely. 


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Signs of loneliness include:

  1. Lack of social connection: It’s important and normal for children to enjoy their own company. However, having at least one close friend is important.
  2. Low mood and lack of interest: If a child seems sad or depressed and has lost interest in spending time with others or activities they used to enjoy. 

Impact of screen time and social media: 

Screen time and social media affects teenagers’ mental health negatively by limiting direct contact with peers and encouraging constant comparison online, which can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. See tips on how to reduce screen time.

Tips to help reduce screen time:

Children often spend a lot of time on screens, especially social media. Excessive screen time can increase feelings of loneliness and depression, despite being seen as a way to connect.

Parents can help their children manage their screen time with these steps:

  1. Talk openly: Create a comfortable space for your child to discuss their social media habits without judgment.
  2. Evaluate use and educate: Help your child understand how they use social media and when they turn to it. Share information on how too much screen time affects mental health to help your child make informed choices.
  3. Lead by example: Show your child healthy screen habits by setting limits on your own phone use. Establish a family media plan with clear rules like no screens during meals or before bed.
  4. Encourage human connection: Encourage screen free time. Put phones away during conversations and activities giving people and tasks your undivided attention.
  5. Set limits: Work with your child to establish reasonable boundaries on screen time. Encourage them to unfollow accounts that make them feel inadequate and to explore other activities.


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Loneliness leads to a lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem, and depression. As this continues over time it can lead to a negative spiral of feeling like “No-one wants to be my friend.”

It can be hard to talk about feeling lonely, and children and young people might not want to say that they don’t have friends or feel left out.

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It's normal for your child to feel lonely sometimes. It's nothing to be ashamed of.

Remember, admitting to feeling lonely can be tough, but lots of people go through it.

Remind your child it’s okay to feel lonely, that this feeling won't last forever and that reaching out for support is a brave step toward feeling better.

There are lots of ways to tackle loneliness and encourage connection and well-being. Here are a few tips:

  • Encourage your child to self-care.

Sometimes when people feel lonely, they might forget or lack the energy to care for themselves. It is still important despite feeling low to maintain a healthy diet, get the right amount of sleep and be active. Being active or doing exercise has also been found to improve mood!

  • Encourage your child to open up about how they are feeling.

Make time to have open conversations with your child about their feelings. Be attentive to your children during a conversation. Simply reaching out and talking to someone can make a big difference in combating loneliness. Encourage them to confide in someone they trust, this could be a family member, carer, teacher or school nurse, even if it's to check in and share how they're doing.

  • Encourage your child to do something enjoyable.

Help your child find their strengths, tell them what they are good at and give positive feedback. Engaging in activities can also help reduce feelings of loneliness. Encourage them to spend time doing things they enjoy such as drawing, playing games or watching their favourite videos. If they like outdoor activities, suggest inviting family members to join in, such as playing sports or exploring nature together. Finding enjoyment or distraction in activities can help dispel loneliness and brighten their day.

  • Encourage and reassure your child.

Share positive feedback and compliment your child so they know they are valued, appreciated, loved and that you are proud of them. Feeling loved, supported and valued by a parent or trusted adult is an essential part of having good self-esteem.

  • Spend time with your child.

Make plans with your child to do something fun that you both enjoy. This will help make your child feel loved and accepted and can take their mind off feeling lonely for a while.

Help your child by teaching them these key mindset tips:

  1. Loneliness is nothing to be embarrassed about.
  2. It is not your fault.
  3. Loneliness is not permanent it can change.
  4. Don’t compare yourself to others.
  5. It’s ok, to take a step back or reduce your social media usage.
  6. Think about what your strengths are. What skills come naturally to you? What do you enjoy? What hobbies do you like or are passionate about?
  7. Are there any groups, clubs or activities available through school or your local community that you could join to make social connections through a shared interest?