Parenting: Loner vs. lonely
June 7, 2011 (WPVI) -- My son Nicholas has always been quite good at entertaining himself and there are times when he chooses to be alone in his room playing, as opposed to socializing with friends - or even hanging out with dad.
While I appreciate his ability to play by himself, experts say parents need to keep a close eye on their school-age children if they choose to spend too much time alone.
Most youngsters who choose to be by themselves are developing important life skills, like the ability to be self-sufficient. But other children are preferring to be alone with their books and computers because they don't know how to be more social - or worse, they've been rejected or excluded by other children, so they've just given up.
Experts say these are the children who aren't alone by preference, but are lonely due to a social exclusion. That's what parents need to be aware of, and to be able to recognize the difference between a loner child and a lonely child.
According to one child psychologist, when children say they prefer to be alone it could mean one of two things: 1) that they actually enjoy their solitude, or 2) that being alone is preferable to being rejected or mistreated by their peers.
So how do we tell the difference between a happy loner and a child who is miserable because they can't mix well, but wants to? Here are some helpful tips:
1. Remember what your youngster was like as a baby. Were they slow to warm up to people or were they outgoing and sociable?
2. Ask your child about their friends at school. Kids who are targets of teasing and bullying usually become loners at home.
3. Listen for key words and labels. For instance, if your child complains about being unpopular, it could mean that he or she is disliked at school or has been rejected in their attempts to make friends.
rick williams parenting reports, parenting, rick williams
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