Loneliness a key concern for thousands of children

Children feeling invisible and isolated but we've got support from Childline

Girl with plaits looking at camera

Thousands of young people are reaching out to Childline for help with feelings of loneliness and isolation as they struggle with the pressures of growing up in today's society.

Childline began recording loneliness as a specific issue of concern after counsellors saw a rise in young people who felt invisible, misunderstood or isolated last year.

Who's calling Childline about loneliness?

Figures from Childline revealed that there were 4,063 counselling sessions about loneliness last year (2016/17). Of these, 73% of counselling sessions were with girls1.


Spotting the signs a child is lonely

Young people told Childline they often spend a lot of time in their bedrooms or online when they felt low, which made feelings worse.

Some self-harmed to cope with their negative feelings, or even contemplated ending their own life.

Counsellors were told that young people didn't want to talk to their parents about their issues, as they were worried what they'd think of them.

"I’ve thought about ending my life because I think it’s pointless me being here. I don’t feel like anyone cares about me and I’m lonely all the time. I’ve tried to talk to people about how stressed and anxious I feel, but they’re not bothered. It’s like I’m worthless."
15-year-old girl who contacted Childline

Reasons for loneliness

Childline counsellors were told that young people compare themselves to others on social media, making them feel 'ugly' and 'unpopular'. 

Others may feel lonely if they're struggling to fit in after moving house or schools, falling out with friends or losing someone close to them.

How to support a child with loneliness

If your child is struggling with feelings of loneliness or isolation, it can be difficult to know what to say. But there are things you can do to support them:

  • choose where you start a conversation - pick somewhere neutral and relaxed like a bike ride or a car journey
  • be careful how you react - it can be difficult knowing what to say, but overreacting may stop them from confiding in you again
  • give it time - if your child isn't ready to talk straight away, try again in a few days time
  • listen - it might seem obvious, but showing you've listened helps your child feel valued in what they're telling you.

Get help talking about difficult topics

Coping with loneliness and isolation

Childline gives advice and support for young people who feel lonely or isolated.

Read Childline's advice

Esther Ranzten

Dame Esther Rantzen, Founder and President of Childline said:
"I think we in the adult world are addicted to being busy, and that our children and young people are suffering as a result.

"Of course many of us have to work hard, couples may need to take on several jobs to boost their income, but sometimes that leaves too little time for the people we care about most, our children.

"So Childline has become the place young people choose to confide in. They tell us that we make them they feel valued, so they have the confidence to talk about their feelings of loneliness."

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References

  1. There were 4,063 Childline counselling sessions from 1 April 2016 – 31 March 2017
    in relation to loneliness. 2,978 Childline counselling sessions about loneliness were carried out with girls during 1 April 2016 – 31 March 2017 compared to 582 with boys. In 503 counselling sessions the gender was unknown.