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The age of screens makes us lonely. Even in the company of their peers, young people prefer to occupy themselves with their cell phones, consoles and tablets instead of doing something together. So it can be that three friends are sitting on a couch and yet everyone is busy on their own.
Long ago, loneliness was more of a phenomenon that affected adults. Children played together after school, did something with their parents or visited grandma and grandpa.
Today, things are a bit different. Many parents hardly have any time in the afternoon because they have to go to work. But even if only one parent has a job, the child can be lonely. Issues such as (gambling) addiction and mental illness have a negative impact on the parent-child relationship, leaving family members lonely.
The older you get, the more difficult it becomes. While it is still quite easy to find playmates at elementary school age, it becomes a bit more difficult from puberty onward. This is also due to the fact that friendships among teenagers are a little more complicated than among children.
Reasons For Loneliness Among Children
In everyday language, people often confuse loneliness with being alone. However, they are not the same thing.
If someone is alone, then he does not have other people around him at the moment. This is not fundamentally bad. Some people like to be alone from time to time and enjoy being able to read a book in peace or write down their most intimate thoughts without anyone looking over their shoulder.
It’s okay to be alone once in a while. Each of us has our own strategies for dealing with it. Unlike being alone, loneliness is something unpleasant. If you’re alone too much or you can’t handle it, then you feel lonely. It’s a very negative feeling.
Character, Personality And Social Skills
Depending on how you grow up, you develop different social skills. Our social skills enable us to deal properly with other people. They help us interpret situations correctly and act appropriately in the company of others. If you are very often alone in childhood or have little opportunity to play with your peers, you may find it somewhat difficult to interact with others later on.
Personality also plays a role in this. Everyone needs different amounts of contact with others. Some feel more comfortable having a lot of time to themselves, while others need to be constantly surrounded by people to be content.
Lack of social skills and a reserved, shy personality can lead to loneliness. People then try to avoid unpleasant situations by hardly meeting others and taking little part in social interaction. This may feel okay at first. At some point, however, you start to suffer from it.
Children have little to no influence on how they grow up. Their social development is very dependent on their parents.
If they don’t get enough opportunities to meet their friends or pursue social hobbies in their free time, they can become lonely.
Children from poorer families in particular find it difficult to make new contacts. Shame and fear keep them from inviting friends to their homes.
Changes In The Housing Situation
When kids move, they face major new challenges. How well you handle the move depends on how far apart your previous and new homes are. If you have to leave all your friends behind, it can be very difficult to settle into the new environment. After all, you’re starting from scratch and have to make friends first in order to find your way into a circle of friends.
Shy kids run the risk of not making new friends for a long period of time. In the worst case, they’ll eventually give up and settle for hanging out on their own.
Does Loneliness Make You Sick?
While being alone occasionally is not a problem, loneliness can actually make you sick. That’s because we humans are social creatures. That means we depend on the help of those around us. We need each other and want to have someone we can confide in. Joint activities in a group make us happy and increase our self-esteem.
Regardless of whether we see ourselves as loners, are unable to make a connection at the moment, or are involuntarily alone: social contact is a basic human need.
If we don’t have social contact for too long, it’s just as bad for the body as depriving ourselves of food. First, the psyche suffers from loneliness. Then the body begins to release stress hormones. This throws the whole organism out of balance.
Phases Of Loneliness
Just like a chronic illness, the phenomenon of loneliness takes place in phases. While the whole thing is not so bad at the beginning, it can later affect the affected person very strongly in his well-being. Currently, one distinguishes according to the following three phases of loneliness:
Phase 1: It will pass
When something changes in life that brings serious cuts, one can suffer from feelings of loneliness. For example, if you’ve just gone through a breakup or lost your best friend, loneliness won’t be long in coming. Normally, however, the moping does not last long. Sooner or later, you can motivate yourself to take your life in your own hands again. Then you look for new friends or start a new hobby. Every one of us suffers from this kind of loneliness from time to time. But if you pick yourself up early enough, it’s not a big problem.
Phase 2: When withdrawal feels comfortable
If nothing changes in the person’s situation, then the loneliness begins to affect him negatively. His self-confidence suffers from the lack of social contact. One may then feel insecure in the presence of other people because one is no longer used to it. Therefore, one begins to withdraw more and more. If the loneliness was involuntary at the beginning (in phase 1), in phase 2 one consciously decides to stay alone. In the end, dealing with other people becomes such a challenge that one can no longer cope with it.
Phase 3: Well, what now?
Loneliness begins to be chronic (long-lasting, constant state) when you have no or hardly any social contact with the outside world for months or even years. Therefore, one finds it increasingly difficult to empathize and converse with others. One then appears “strange” to others. As a result, it becomes increasingly difficult to make contacts. In phase 3, the consequences of long-term loneliness become apparent. One begins to suffer from depression, is frequently ill and feels listless. While in phase 2 you tried to withdraw, in phase 3 you become painfully aware that you can’t do without social contact. Somehow you find yourself in a quandary. On the one hand, you are not good with people. On the other hand, the constant loneliness makes you sick. The resulting despair can even go so far that those affected eventually take their own lives because they no longer see a way out.
Health Consequences Of Persistent Loneliness
As already mentioned, serious mental illnesses can result from persistent loneliness. Depression and anxiety disorders are at the top of the list. While at the beginning these still bring relatively small restrictions in everyday life, later one suffers so much from it that one feels unable to do anything. Loneliness is therefore a very dangerous thing if you don’t do something about it in time.
Because loneliness triggers stress in people, they start suffering from many aches and pains. Stomach pain, sleeping problems, stomach ulcers and heart palpitations are some of the ailments that stress can bring.
What Can You Do About Loneliness?
If you notice that someone is very withdrawn, then you should first ask. This is because a serious illness (e.g. depression) may be behind this behavior. It helps such people if you simply spend a little time with them without forcing them to do anything
The following tips serve as a first aid for persistent loneliness, but under no circumstances can they replace a visit to your trusted doctor.
Maintaining Friendships – A Lifelong Task
Sometimes you just feel tired and listless. Then you would prefer to stay on the couch instead of doing something with your friends. It’s okay to give yourself a break every now and then, as long as you remain honest with your friends.Introverts (introverted) people need a lot of time for themselves and their hobbies.
Once in a while, however, even if you’re a shy, withdrawn person, you should make time for your friends. Think of it as a task in your life. Only if you make time for your friends now and then will you be able to benefit from their help and support later on. In addition, you will do something good for your body as well as your psyche if you maintain social contacts.
Maintaining A Balance Between Self-confidence And Empathy
You shouldn’t always worry about what anyone thinks about you. It’s best to be yourself without worrying your head off. If someone doesn’t like you for no reason, then they shouldn’t talk to you. You don’t have to get along with every one of your classmates. Be true to yourself as long as you don’t offend or harm anyone.
There must be a few people in your life that you care about deeply. You should show empathy towards them. Although you are self-confident, you are also somewhat dependent on these people. By taking an interest in them and making time for them, you nurture your friendship.
Practice putting yourself in others’ shoes. In between, keep asking yourself how the person you’re talking to must be feeling about their situation, what might be going through their mind, and what things are on their mind. This is a way to practice your social skills, which in turn will make you even more confident in dealing with those around you.
Find Like-minded People
Making friends and maintaining them over time is easier when you share the same interests. Think about what you love to do and what hobby you would like to pursue. Then research whether there is a club or group in your area that is dedicated to the same hobby as you.
Visit them to see if you get along with them. Maybe you can make one or two new, intense friendships that way. Because clubs and groups meet regularly, you won’t easily lose sight of each other and will always have something in common to do.
Take Criticism Seriously
As already mentioned, you should not worry about every stupid remark. However, if something touches you deeply and you get into an argument with someone because of it, you should ask yourself why that is. If it were not true, it might not hurt you so much
Accept criticism from people you care about. This will help you understand how you affect other people. Recognize your faults and try to improve.
Go To Therapy
If you feel very unwell because of your loneliness, please see a doctor. He can prescribe you a psychotherapy at health insurance costs. With a therapist as a confidant, it is easier to find out the causes of your problem. Together you can work on increasing your social network and strengthening your self-confidence in social situations.
Aim for Real Contacts
Reluctant people tend to limit themselves more and more to the Internet. They prefer to write instead of talking to someone directly. The physical distance between you and the person you are talking to gives you a certain security on the Internet if you are a bit shy. Therefore, the Internet is basically a good way for shy people to find new contacts. However, Internet acquaintances can never replace a “real” friendship in real life. After all, real friends can be around when you need them to be. They fulfill your social needs and share in your life. Chatting on the Internet cannot soothe lingering feelings of loneliness. What you need are not just kind words, but hugs and the warmth of a loved one.
Despite the possibilities offered by the Internet, please do not forget to make and maintain real contacts.
Worksheet For The Text
1) Explain the difficult words from the text.
2) What are the stages of loneliness? Describe each one with at least two sentences.
3) What can you do when you are lonely? Write down some tips that you have memorized.