A decade ago, only 10 percent of Americans said they were lonely. That number has nearly doubled, according to a recent Barna Group report. Younger kids may not yet wrestle with loneliness, but we can still teach them habits today that will help keep them from feeling overwhelmed by loneliness in the coming years. Here are two proactive steps we can take now:
Face time vs. screen time
First, parents can help their children find a healthy balance between screen time and face-to-face connection. A side effect of our constant digital connectedness is that it's hard to carve out time to interact in person. To combat this, my family intentionally spends time with others. We have fun as a family, coming up with zany ways to connect.
We also encourage our kids to connect with people outside our family. We want our kids to ask, "Can we have someone over?" instead of always reverting to screen time. As parents, we try to say "yes" to this request as often as possible.
Alone vs. Lonely
Second, we teach our kids that there's a difference between being alone and being lonely. One is a circumstance, and the other is a feeling. In our house we have regular periods of quiet time. Our children can read, draw, write or let their minds wander, but they can't talk or play together.
Younger kids won't be able to handle as long a time of solitude as their older siblings. That's OK. The goal is to create regular rhythms of solitude in their lives so they learn that they can do things when they're alone without feeling lonely.
When we teach our kids to connect in meaningful relationships and to be comfortable with solitude, we give them tools to help battle loneliness.