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Signs of a Lonely Child

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr, studioD

It's like having your own little stalker: Your little one follows you everywhere, trying to engage you in conversation, acting like your best friend in the world. Maybe it's all a trick to force you to get him a puppy to soak up all that attention, or maybe your child is really showing signs of loneliness. If it's the latter, you'll want to help your tot work on making some age- and species-appropriate friends.

Seeks Engagement

Lonely kids seek attention and conversation -- a lot, in ways that can try your patience. On the other hand, acting out could be a bid to get your attention if you don’t acknowledge his attempts to engage you in positive ways. If you believe his following you around and chattering indicate loneliness, invite one or two kids over and see if the situation improves. Alternatively, enroll him in a mother’s-day-out program a couple of days a week, if you find having a few friends over helps.

Poor Social Skills

A lonely child sometimes suffers from low self-esteem, keeping to herself to prevent rejection or ridicule. She might get along better with you or the dog than she does with her peers because she lacks the social skills necessary to interact with those she doesn’t know. If your child is shy, start with one or two kids over to let her develop the skills necessary to make new friends.

Bad Attitude

Some shy kids become reclusive, withdrawing from peers because they don’t feel comfortable with them or welcome in a group. A lonely child might display sad and emotional, needy and clinging behavior that can get on your nerves. Ask him, “Would you like to invite someone over to play with you, join a class, or go to reading time at the library to make some new friends?” An enthusiastic response tells you he feels lonely, and could open the door that allows him to tell you how he feels and what he wants to do about it.


Some lonely kids create a make-believe friend or bond with a stuffed animal or pet because they are lonely. She might carry on conversations with doodle bugs or imaginary creatures because no one else pays her any attention. Ask, “Who are you talking to?” and see what kind of a response you receive. Offer an alternative, including stopping your busy activities long enough to spend time interacting with your child. Sometimes interacting with her for 20 minutes will fill up her relationship tank for a bit and get you the time you need to finish your tasks so you can take a trip to the park or the library, where she can engage with other kids.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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