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MNHQ here: have you found good ways to combat loneliness in children or young people?

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RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 01-Sep-17 10:14:53


As part of our worth with Action for Children and the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, we're looking into the issue of loneliness and isolation among children and young people (up to 25).

We'd love to hear about any strategies you have for addressing loneliness in these age groups. You might have experience with your own children, or children and young people you know, look after or teach. These could be practical suggestions for finding companions and friends, mindfulness/wellbeing strategies, ways to boost self-esteem, particular groups or organisations who have helped - anything that you've tried and found to be effective. What advice would you give to another parent or carer looking for ways to help?

We'll use the results to inform the report that Action for Children is putting together for the Jo Cox Commission.


Spikeyball Fri 01-Sep-17 10:44:21

I'm the parent/carer of a child with very severe learning difficulties and autism who spends most of his time away from school, very isolated.
The things that would work for him are
A) very specialist groups for him to attend on a regular basis - standard sn activities/groups are too busy and often beyond him.
B) spending time with specialist carers who can meet his needs.
C) a general acceptance of people like him by wider society so you feel you can take him to places without the general public objecting to his presence.
D) facilities such as changing places toilets
and accessible changing facilities for things like swimming being more prevalent.

Unfortunately because of the prevailing attitude that people like him don't matter, he is isolated.

HarHer Fri 01-Sep-17 11:16:10

My sons have autism and/or mental ill health. For the past three years they have been extremely isolated because school broke down for both of them. I have tried everything I know to try to help them.

The biggest obstacle was the fact that the boys could not/would not engage with support workers. The ones who had the most success were patient and consistent. They took the trouble to find out what the boys were interested in, did not grumble of try to put pressure on them if they hid away. they came when they said they would come and managed to use humour as a non-threatening de-escalation strategy.

My eldest is now in residential care. My youngest has a college placement, but there has been no transition, no transport arranged and no real discussion of support, so I think it is likely he will not attend.

What would really help would be an informal place where he could drop in a gently meet a few people. The place would have to be non-threatening and have activities that were purposeful and relevant. perhaps a one to one tutor to help with English and Maths and maybe somewhere he could socialise on his own terms.

However, with services being cut drastically in our local area, I doubt this will happen.

The boys' social isolation has been a significant factor in their deteriorating mental health.

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 01-Sep-17 11:33:33

Thanks both. I'm very sorry to read about your sons' situations - it must be really distressing for you all.

MrsOverTheRoad Fri 01-Sep-17 11:33:42

Finding a child's special interest and helping them to find their tribe.

All...or most children and young adults, have a special interest. Discovering if there's a group locally or an online group which they can join is very useful.

wannabestressfree Fri 01-Sep-17 22:26:30

I have three sons.
Ds1 has schizophrenia and is passionate about art. I find local night classes and groups I set him challenges to do both based on life skills and outside.
Ds3 is only 13 and is very isolated by choice. I push him to leave the house once a day and any big things are discussed in advance. He is slowly becoming a school refuser. I develop almost reference like knowledge on their likes e.g. Wrestling, roblox, warhammer. I find and attend clubs with them.
Young carer and early help also have input.

I am not being rude to the poster earlier but why not organise transport? Be proactive? I know it's a constant but I have found things get done then ( I mean this in a non patronising way) visit the college, plan a bus route etc

wannabestressfree Fri 01-Sep-17 22:27:24

Sorry should said both have aspergers and ds1 spent long time in hospital sectioned.

kateandme Fri 01-Sep-17 22:34:24

Mental health classes to push out help people understand these coomplex disorders.
Better groups for anyone struggling to chat.
Better bullying beating rules for schools.they simply don't tske it seriously.
Help them find there them nurture it and grow from doing things they love.
Being open to anything they need to say.letting them no always that with out judgment they can tell u anything.
Breathing techniques fr if they get overwhelmed.
More just for fun hang out for you.g people.
Easier access to help.
Peer support leaders.
Watchful for those in need.if someone's looking troubled.just be there.dont let them flounder on there own.

Dizzybintess Sat 02-Sep-17 00:04:33

Girlguiding is a fab group for girls to join. I am a leader and we have helped many girls increase their confidence and make new friends

youreawillja Sat 02-Sep-17 08:15:47

We have great futsal classes here that balance skills and small competitive games in each session. No set teams, no build up of pressure because the playing scenarios change often. For my ds with SCD it helps him to connect and communicate with others when he so often prefers to avoid large groups .smile

NewDaddie Sat 02-Sep-17 09:31:19

I mentor and tutor young people and I found that assurance is really important and one of the few things they can get from me that they can't get from google.

Young people seem far more knowledgeable than I was at their age and a lot of their learning (particularly outside classroom, but also sometimes in it) happens isolated with their electronic devices. But they miss out on the 1 to 1 interactions and guidance that gives them the experience of engaging with other people, being rejected and embarrassed, being coached and guided. I help as an adult by providing a safe space for young people to get those experiences.

Honesty and self-deprecating humour really help. Finally just being a good and realistic role model helps. My mentees believe that if a not that old, slightly nutty, dummy like me can be alright in the end than they can too.

ZebraOwl Sat 02-Sep-17 11:14:19

As Dizzybintness suggested, Girlguiding - for girls in the UK - is an amazing way to build girls' confidence. I'm also a volunteer with them & one of the things I most often hear from parents is how much their daughter's confidence has increased through their membership & the activities & opportunities we provide. The Irish Girl Guides actually have "Giving Girls Confidence" as their strapline at the moment...

WAGGGS (the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) currently have (over) 10 million members in 146 countries, so most people on MN would probably be able to find a local organisation.

ZebraOwl Sat 02-Sep-17 11:28:18

Gah, sorry, was nudged by cat & posted as I was trying to sort out middle paragraph of that.

Building confidence can help with reducing social isolation as girls feel more able to engage with their peers. Obviously just being in Girlguiding they'll make new friends - potentially, as they get older, friends from all over the world, if they go on to attend international camps as older Guides/Senior Section members. With the range of activities Girlguiding introduces girls to they may discover a new interest they then take up that will lead to a new group of friends - something they've the confidence to do thanks to Girlguiding.

Obviously it's not a magic wand, but I've seen it make really REALLY dramatic changes for the better in girls' lives.

sandycrackington Sat 02-Sep-17 15:18:12

It's very hard when you have children on the spectrum and although they acknowledge they are lonely refuse to leave the house or engage with others. Home becomes a guilded cage for all involved.

BackforGood Sat 02-Sep-17 15:49:05

Finding a child's special interest and helping them to find their tribe.

This, that MrsOvertheRoad said x 100.

For so many, I would recommend Scouts - you get to try so much and meet so many people from all walks of life. Scouting has done so much for all my dc.

DamsonGin Sat 02-Sep-17 16:27:35

DS managed to be lonely and picked on even at Scouts. It still needs adults who can watch your child's back and know what's going on. Understanding of ASD/ADHD/other disabilities is always helpful.

At primary school age, having others with similar interests but in an environment where the teachers / leaders / adults can step in and stop or prevent low level or blatant bullying or unkindness is key, I think. Only one thing more shit than walking past your child's school field and seeing them on their own, again, and that's actually being that child.

Strategies that work for us - listening and acknowledging feelings and worries, and good communication with other adults involved in your child's care and education to be able to deal with those worries. Not sure beyond that, hoping secondary school will have his tribe.

SandysMam Sat 02-Sep-17 17:24:54

The best thing I have ever seen for isolated young people is any activity involving animals, particularly horses. They can focus on the job in hand if they struggle to communicate with others...mucking out stables or working together to groom a muddy horse until it shines. This is an expensive hobby but a stables for such a group would be incredible.

BalloonSlayer Sat 02-Sep-17 18:39:17

When my DS was small he was referred to the motor skills clinic because he didn't run very well.

The Doctor - seperately from the clinic - had organised a scheme where children with motor skills problems could come and learn football. It was run by the local professional team. It meant that children who struggled with sport could improve their skills and then!!! . . . play a game of football where they could actually participate and enjoy themselves.

Children with all sorts of issues came. It was lovely. My friend's son had problems and had seen the same specialist but a couple of years before and so didn't get invited - when i told her about it she just phoned them and asked if he could come and they said yes of course.

It was fabulous and I have such fond memories of it and am so grateful. I think it almost certainly stopped through lack of funds.

Whensmyturn Sat 02-Sep-17 23:22:22

Loneliness in schools when being bullied is extremely difficult and time consuming to combat. Teachers will often appear not to recognise there is a problem with bullying because they simply do not have the time or resources to deal with the problem. Trying to achieve the desired academic outcomes and all the other stuff too just leaves them overloaded and fearing for their job. Competency proceedings and judgements of unsatisfactory lessons are always looming. There are few punishments available to impose on bullies and little to no support from management. Especially in Secondary where classes are moving from teacher to teacher all day. Providing the right environment to tackle bullying in schools and giving it the importance it deserves is paramount.
Scouting isn't always as supportive for lonely boys as the girl guides is. In my experience the culture is different. The men in Scouting are sometimes less sympathetic.
Working on learning social skills by practising them on the family as an initial step was a useful suggestion made by a psychologist once. Although internet games are isolating in one way they do allow boys to find their tribe in another way.

HarHer Sun 03-Sep-17 08:31:19

Could not agree more about having more 'safe' and supported places and parents being 'proactive' to facilitate and support engagement. However, there will, inevitably, be a small number of individuals who will not/cannot engage even with every ounce of available support.
The most heartbreaking aspect of the situation is that, as a parent, one knows how much friendship and purposeful occupation could change the YP's life, but one can lead a horse to water [...]

Yet in general, young people thrive on positive peer relationships, so activities or environments where these can be developed would probably be the most helpful.

annandale Sun 03-Sep-17 11:30:22

This is an amazing and heartbreaking thread already.

I volunteer for the Woodcraft Folk and that should be a good environment to socialise as it's about people cooperating not competing. Like any youth activity, how successful it is in managing this is up to the individual leaders. I also think that classic Woodies activities can be very verbal and a bit unstructured for kids with more complex needs. Leaders i think need to be honest about what their groups can offer but it's also not ok just to say 'this is what we do, take it or leave it'.

spiney Sun 03-Sep-17 15:08:30

My heart goes out to the responders on this thread.

My son was very very lonely at school. It is heartbreaking.
He was very out of step, awkward, isolated. I suspect he is not Nuro typical.

Luckily, luckily he is reasonably co ordinated.

Team sport helped him. Still never really made friends. But improved his confidence and gave him some self worth.

Life is better now for him.

ruthieness Sun 03-Sep-17 19:16:37

to get a friend you have to be a friend!
I taught my child a technique to make friends.
Give a compliment (I love your bracelet)
ask a question(how long have had it?)
another question
did you have a good weekend?
what you doing weekend?
what do you do for fun?
I would love to do .... that?

and take it from there.

wannabestressfree Sun 03-Sep-17 19:21:33

That's lovely @ruthieness I might try that with my youngest son. He can be rather abrupt!

ruthieness Sun 03-Sep-17 20:08:07

also every one loves a good listener!

so make sure old people have good hearing or they get isolated

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