Lonely, Lonely Child

Question:

My daughter is very social and craves having a playmate all the time. She is very intelligent and easily a grade or two ahead because of homeschool, but she complains nearly constantly about feeling lonely, wishing for friend to play with, wanting to talk to someone, even on the phone. My other children are younger and do not satisfy her social need. She is pretty unhappy. What do I do?

Answer:

Each child is such an individual creation of God, unique in their needs. As mothers, we strive to meet our children’s needs—spiritual, academic, social, physical. I like the scripture in Luke 2:52 , “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Each child has these same dimensions of their being: wisdom (mental, academic), stature (physical growth), favor with God (spirituality) and man (social development). As homeschool moms, we are responsible for nurturing growth in each of these dimensions of a child’s being, not just academic.

Some children just need other children in order to be happy. They are dominantly social in nature and they have to other people in their life, just as much as they have to breathe. I have had children who are content to stay home and crave books, or played by themselves and didn’t need a friend, and others who withered without many people (besides a large family), in their daily life.

Homeschool can give kids the academic advantage (if the mom is doing her part in teaching them), a physical advantage (if mom cares about nutrition), and a spiritual advantage (non-wordly environment, teaching the scriptures, giving opportunities and time for service)—but it does not always fill their social need unless the mother is very attentive to it.

That is why I spent time and effort  to create friendship opportunities for my kids: forming support groups, hosting Girls’ or Boys’ Club, putting on teen dances, and running a co-op school. I tried constantly to try to make sure that social need was filled, so the children wouldn’t get lonely and “friend starved”, or socially awkward from lack of interaction. I also designated two days a week for having a friend over, so basically my kids had a social connection nearly every day. I know that this is a big job for mom, but meeting a child’s social needs is just as important as giving them good nutritious food. I know babies and their needs complicate things, so does not having a car, having poor health, etc.  But recognizing that social interaction is a very real need can help us pay proper attention to it.

To meet your daughter’s needs, you might want to import children. One idea is invite a few girls that you like to come to your house for some kind of class once a week (arts & crafts, drama, dance, etc.) and let the girls play for half of the time, and do some simple project the other part of the time. That is a way to schedule playtime that other moms (and you) can plan on so you aren’t always calling trying to find a friend. Moms are much more willing to drive their child over to your house on a regular schedule if they feel they are getting the benefit of a free, good class for their child, rather than just unstructured playtime.  And consistent, positive time together is what opens the doors for friendship.  Girls Club was a very essential part of my daughter’s upbringing.

Another option is to join or organize a mom-taught co-op, where you are present, taking your teaching turn, while your children rotate to enjoy other teachers in a class setting. I directed a co-op school that met once a week for most of my homeschooling years, and it was a wonderful blessing to our family, providing support and friendship. In the summer months, we met for Park Day.  So year round, my children were able to connect with their friends, usually bringing them home afternoon play.

I am assuming your daughter has chores to do, along with her schoolwork, and family duties such as helping care for younger siblings, playing with them and reading to them.  And perhaps an elderly neighbor to visit weekly. This service will make her happier.  Long periods of nothing to do will get many children whining for friends just to entertain themselves.  It is a really helpful to teach children some skills so they can content themselves with hobbies when they feel restless. If they have an interesting project going, such as simple hand sewing, crocheting, sculpting, playing music for fun, drawing, etc., they will find satisfaction in creating. If you can teach your children to love to read, it will open an exciting word of virtuous friends and role models.

Homeschool” means that parents in the “home” are in charge of “school” (your children’s education), rather than the government, the state guidelines, the media, the school district, the Sunday school teacher, the Scout leader, or anyone else. It is acknowledging that our children’s upbringing is our responsibility. It cannot be shrugged off onto someone else. Once that is firm in our minds, then it is our task to search for means to fill our children’s needs and help them develop. Extra attention to creating social opportunities may be enough to help a child feel balanced. You may feel good about using opportunities outside the home to give children the balance they need to be happy and grow best. Be wise and careful, especially with young children, who do best under the watchful guidance of their parents and the protection of values lived in the home.

Listen to the inspiration your feel in your heart. God loves your children more than you do, and He will direct you to do what is best for them.