Is my Young Student Feeling Loneliness in My Class?
Posted on: March 9, 2018.

Author: Mrs. Radhika Mohan, Educational Consultant

Young children understand the concept of loneliness very well and can report feeling lonely. It does mean a lot to them, similar to that shared by older children and adults. But what would happen if young children want to be or feel lonely?

Children with poor peer relationships feel lonely. They often feel excluded with a feeling that can be damaging to their self-esteem. They may also experience feelings of sadness, malaise, boredom, and alienation. Early childhood experiences causing loneliness may even predict loneliness during adulthood. Hence they may lack interest to pick up important lifelong skills like learning to interact with their peers and others.

The benefits of learning this skill shows positivity on child’s development and the potential lack of interaction raises many concerns for teachers who work with young students. Peer relations matter a lot to kids and even lonely children crave for friendships. Why do young kids feel lonely? There are several factors – some that occur outside the school settings, like conflicts within the home; moving to a new school or neighborhood; losing a friend; losing an object, possession, or a pet; experiencing the divorce of a parents or experiencing death of a significant person or pet.

Equally important factors could contribute to feelings of loneliness at school like being rejected by peers, lacking social skills and lack of knowledge of how to make friends, or possessing personal characteristics like shyness, anxiety, low self-esteem, etc. All these could hinder making friends for themselves. Kindergarten kids experience loneliness if they are victimized by peers (e.g. picked on, physically or verbally attacked or taunted). They get distressed and avoid coming to school. They develop a negative attitude toward schooling.

This is where a teacher plays a crucial role. Careful observation is the necessary first step to gain insights into student’s loneliness.

    ✔ Lonely children appear to be timid, anxious, unsure about themselves or sad.

    ✔ He may show lack of interest in his surroundings.

    ✔ He seems to feel being rejected by his playmates.

    ✔ He may even avoid other kids in his class, by choice.

    ✔ He appears to lack social skills, holding himself from initiating or maintaining interactions.

Sometimes the teacher may be surprised to note that although he possesses social skills, he is many a time reluctant to use them. The teacher has to closely observe if he is being victimized by peers. She also has to find out if any of these traits has just been a recent phenomenon or has it been persisting for a consistently long period. The teacher must then spend time talking to such students individually.

Young students are definitely sensitive and aware of their developmental abilities and personal limitations. If they are content playing alone, they maybe at increased risk for later problems, both socially and cognitively. Teachers should talk to such kids, discuss their feelings, document their behavior and responses, and thus determine whether they are lonely or are happy and productively self-engaged.

Aggressive children could suffer the greatest degree of loneliness and social dissatisfaction quotes Jarvis R. Bullock. They maybe feeling severely rejected. A teacher should observe if the student is acting aggressively towards others, finds difficulty in entering ongoing play, difficulty adapting to a situation, or difficulty communicating needs and desires.

Then once she understands the child, she will help the child to understand and change the situation. She will point out the ill effects of the child’s behavior on others, teach the child to adapt to ongoing play, and help the child to clearly communicate his feelings and desires. Teachers need to support, nurture, and cherish lonely kids.

Teachers can give feedback, suggestions, and idea as the case maybe. Older children may be paired with younger ones to practice social skills and pick up self confidence. If a young student is found being victimized, the teacher provides firm yet supportive suggestion to the aggressor. She teaches skills like respecting others and self, engaging them in problem solving and working together on skills and tasks that require co-operation and expressing feelings and emotions in appropriate ways.

Teachers can even choose curricula that will give room for expression of sadness and loneliness through drawing art, music, movement or creative activities. She can make a dramatic play arena using props and an engaging context that will kindle eagerness and enthusiasm in the lone child. She can take the help of bibliotherapy.

Teachers can talk to the child’s primary caregivers and get valuable insights and guidance. She can suggest to parents to invite a peer over to the child’s house frequently. She can ask them to give extra time in listening to their ward. They can ask parents’ recommendations to make school a more comfortable place for her student and also share relevant resources with parents – such as literature and information on parent discussion groups. Her students will start thriving once teachers take time to focus on the individual needs of her students, build relationships, and assist them with their needs.

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