Our children. Sometimes we’re in tune with them and all is well with the world. But just when we think we know exactly what’s going on with them, more is revealed.
Recently there was information published by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) about their helpline for children called Childline. Their findings were a bit shocking to say the least.
For little children, some at the tender ages of 5 and 6, to call a helpline because they feel lonely or are worried about their parents is disturbing. It’s a warning we should all take very seriously.
National Children’s Day UK, May 14th, is all about the importance of a healthy childhood and how we need to protect the rights and freedoms of children in order to ensure that they can grow into happy, healthy adults.
According to an article in The Telegraph:
Children as young as six calling Childline because they feel lonely. NSPCC delivered more than 4,000 counselling sessions last year to young people suffering from feelings of isolation.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) which runs the helpline, delivered the equivalent of 11 sessions per day – to our young people who suffer from being lonely. Nearly 3/4 of the calls were from girls, making them five times more likely to contact Childline for help than boys.
Their findings show that the kids feel ‘invisible’ and misunderstood. They also say that their parents just don’t understand them. Due to this they spend a lot of time isolated in their rooms and/or online, which makes the issue worse.
The most extreme reactions to loneliness created thoughts of borderline suicide, but in most cases self-harming.
Childline counsellors say social media is leading youngsters to make unrealistic comparisons about their lives, that leave them feeling ugly, unpopular and isolated.
Due to the increasing trend towards loneliness, Childline has created a webpage on their website to support lonely young people.
Dame Esther Rantzen, founder and president of Childline, says:
“I think we in the adult world are addicted to being busy, and our children are suffering as a result. Of course many of us have to work hard, but sometimes that leaves too little time for the people we care about most, our children.”
Now I know what you’re thinking, neglectful parents cause lonely children. I don’t think that’s always the case. Life happens and this need not be about BLAME. It needs to be about restructuring our lives, even in small ways, to adapt to this ever-changing world we live in. Maybe most importantly, to adapt to a technology focused world.
Screens, screens everywhere! Phones and tablets fill our faces, our minds, and our lives with data. And for children spending an increasing amount of time staring at screens can be a particularly insidious act.
A new study found that children today are struggling with “loneliness or deep levels of unhappiness” due to the time spent on the Internet. Loneliness is not a new thing, but it seems that technology takes it to a whole new level. Some children spend hours and hours without speaking to another person whilst their face is staring at a screen.
Technology will continue to be a part of most children’s lives, in useful (and useless) ways, but teaching our children how to step away from their screens, and gravitate toward what can be felt and cultivated in the offline world is vital to their mental health.
What can we do?
Alone doesn’t automatically mean lonely. And you can feel lonely in a room full of people all the same. A child who is lonely feels sad because he/she has no friends or feels emotionally isolated.
We need to become more aware of our children and if they’re struggling with being lonely.
Young people often tell Childline that they don’t want to talk to their parents about their problems, as they’re worried what they’ll think. The NSPCC suggests parents who struggle to get their children to open up to them should:
- Start a conversation when no-one will interrupt, perhaps on a bike ride or car journey.
- Try not to overreact when your child tells you something alarming – it may stop them from confiding in you again.
- If your child isn’t ready to talk straight away, try again in a few days.
- Listening is important and shows your child you value what they’re telling you.
We as parents have to be aware and be ready and willing to help our children overcome this problem. It takes some extra added attention and time out of our busy schedules. As always, the first step is awareness of the problem. We need to reach out to our kids.