My 13-year-old son Sam recently told me that he is feeling lonely. Before the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sam had friends that he interacted with in person every day. Then suddenly their in-person interactions were shut off and gradually he and his friends were no longer communicating. Sam hasn’t made any other friends. I can relate to Sam’s feelings as I too have lost contact with old friends. What can Sam’s dad and I do to help him find some friends and feel connected to others?



As you are aware, younger kids and adolescents often feel lonely, but mental health experts and researchers are referring to our current trend as a “loneliness epidemic.” So what’s a parent to do? Here are some suggestions.


  1. Connect with your child each day. Smile and make eye contact. Hug him and make him aware that he can count on you. Encourage him to talk. Take care to listen and ask open-ended questions.
  2. Determine your child’s interests. If Sam uses technology often, what is he searching for on Google? It will give you some clues as to his interests. Another way is for you and your husband to try different activities with your child. You can also check with your child’s teacher or teachers.
  3. Help your child find special interest groups, such as a chess team, sports team, hobby groups or even video gaming groups. Facilitate more opportunities for him to find a group that shares his interests.
  4. Model and teach your child some social skills such as being kind, being fair and helping others. Teach him when to shake hands and how to look others in the eye who are speaking.
  5. Thank your child when he exhibits kindness and fairness. People who help others usually find themselves feeling more connected and less lonely.
  6. Social media has benefits but also presents challenges regarding having real-life friends and activities. Children, adolescents and adults typically spend too much time on technology screens. Make rules about how much time and when the use of screens is acceptable.
  7. Share examples with your child about times when you felt lonely and what you did to feel better.


These suggestions have worked for many people. If you think they aren’t working for Sam, you can get him an appointment with a mental health professional.


Betty Richardson, PhD, RN, CS, LPC, LMFT, is an Austin-based psychotherapist.


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