Independent Living Skills: The Ability to Cope with Loneliness

Tips for Helping Teens and Young Adults Cope with Loneliness

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Coping with loneliness is a very important skill on my list of needed independent living skills for teens because every teen I've ever known has needed it. It doesn't matter if they are going to college, starting a new job and moving into an apartment, or getting married. Leaving your childhood home and being on your own for the first time will cause some level of loneliness. Teens who know how to recognize loneliness as the temporary feeling it is, use their support system and work through their loneliness have learned a valuable life skill and do just fine.

But those who are overcome by their loneliness are apt to make rash and wrong ​decisions about where and how to live or who to live with, become severely depressed perhaps turn to ​drugs or alcohol to feel better and thereby never get a chance to reach their life goals. Success alludes those who are not capable of coping with their loneliness. As parents, we want to give our teens all of the tools they need to be successful.

Dealing with Loneliness

You can help your teen learn to deal with loneliness with these tips:

  • Talk to your teen about loneliness in the context of what is going on in their lives right now. For instance for a teen who is going to camp you might say, "While you're at camp, you may get a little lonely and that's okay. People get lonely sometimes - it happens. But those feelings will not last forever." Then ask your teen what they think they can do to make themselves feel better if they start to feel lonely.
  • Help your teen recognize that being alone does not equal being lonely. Being comfortable with being by yourself is part of having a healthy attitude. Encourage positive alone-time activities. Reading, drawing, journaling, crafting and listening to music are activities that your teen can enjoy by themselves without feeling lonely.
  • Teach your teen how to invite a friend over and enjoy an activity. Calling a friend and asking them to watch a movie or play a video game is a learned skill. Do things, like making the family room sibling-free for a night, that will help your teen learn this skill. By learning this skill, your teen will know how to connect with friends when he is lonely when they get older.
  • Teach your teen how to accept an invitation by giving them the words to say. For instance, "Sure, I can come over and play Dance, Dance 2. Should I bring my own controller?" On the same line, teach your teen the proper words for rejecting an invitation gracefully, "Sorry, I can't make it that night. Maybe we can do it some other time?" By learning how to talk to others when accepting or rejecting invitations, it will be likely your teen will receive more invitations from their peers. Show your teen all that is offered in their community. Get them involved in activities with their peers and activities where they help others. Active teens tend not to get as lonely and know how to remain active through adulthood. I want to repeat that you should show your teen how to get involved in their community and not just get them involved. You may want to have your teen call to sign themselves up.
  • Teach your teen all the many different means of connecting with family and loved ones. There are tons of ways teens can connect with friends and family. Some of the ways my teens connect with me are email, letter writing, online social networking, texting and making phone calls.

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