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Noticing loneliness in your child? Here's what to look out for and tools to address it

The pandemic was isolating for many of our children, but setting routines, getting fresh air and letting them see friends safely are good ways to combat loneliness

FORT WORTH, Texas — The pandemic's been hard on all of us, but on our kiddos, especially.

"Many kids have really, really struggled," said licensed professional counselor Jenny Gomez, who works for family law firm, KoonsFuller.

Gomez said the kids she sees struggling the most tend to be the kids who've been doing virtual learning, and said loneliness is one of the main things they're struggling with.

"Lacking that regular interaction they'd have in the hallways or in class or who they'd sit next to or chatting with friends - they don't have that," Gomez said.

A concern with loneliness is that it can spiral, said Dr. Lisa Elliott, a neuropsychologist with Cook Children's based in Denton.

"Often times what happens is, they experience the loneliness, but then that leads into severe depression, severe anxiety," she said.

We share this not to upset parents, but rather to make them aware and give them tools.

So first: What signs should you look out for?

"You've got to be looking for anything in their behavior that's changed," Dr. Elliott said.

That includes:

  • Differences in sleep
  • Changes in eating
  • Being withdrawn

"Possibly more tearfulness, more irritability, a lower frustration tolerance, just overall sadness," she listed as other changes to look for.

And next: What can you do?

Gomez said get involved and make sure your child:

  • Has a routine
  • Gets out of bed/off the couch
  • Gets fresh air on a daily basis 

And if you're still being isolated for pandemic safety?

"Let them figure out some ways to see friends that is safe," Gomez said. That could include spending time outside with friends, which medical experts have said appears to be low risk.

"Kids are not meant to be boxed up in four walls. They want to play, they want to get fresh air, they want to chat, laugh, be goofy," she said.

Gomez and Elliott both remind parents to seek professional help for their children if things don't improve.