For a teen, socializing is everything. The teen years are all about the process of separating identity from their parent’s child toward becoming an autonomous adult. Much of this development occurs within the context of social interactions. With such a heavy emphasis on socializing with peers, why are teens so lonely? Even prior to the lockdowns this year there was growing evidence that teens experience a high degree of loneliness. This seems to be in direct contrast with the readily available interactions teens enjoy with their friends. The question becomes, what about the quality of those interactions might be resulting in teen loneliness? Let’s explore possible factors that cause loneliness:

Social media. Teens spending up to 9 hours a day on their social media accounts, according to recent surveys during the pandemic. Social media interactions tend to be superficial and often toxic.

Being bullied. Maybe a teen doesn’t feel he or she fits it, especially if they have been rejected socially or even bullied.

Interpersonal issues. Teens may not have developed the coping skills to manage relationships, therefore have difficulty forming lasting friendships.

Social anxiety. Some teens struggle with social anxiety, the intense and irrational fear of being judged or ridiculed publically. These teens tend to withdraw socially, resulting in loneliness.

Family problems. A recent divorce may have caused major disruption in the family. A teen may be living separately from his or her other parent or even a sibling as a result, causing feelings of loneliness.

Coping Skills For Teens Experiencing Loneliness

Now that the nation is mired in a pandemic, parents face even higher hurdles in helping their adolescent cope with loneliness. Depending on the region a family lives in, social distancing is likely still in effect, limiting social interactions outside social media, video gaming, or texting. Here are 4 tips that offer coping skills for teens who are feeling lonely:

1. Encourage talking on the phone. Texting has become the favored style of communication among teens in recent years. But during a period when in-person socializing is so limited, hearing a friend’s voice on the phone or seeing and hearing them on FaceTime increases feelings of authentic social connection.

2. Encourage participation in outdoor activities. Teens who feel lonely may also tend enhance those feelings by isolating themselves. Suggest they meet up with friends and play soccer at a local field, go paddleboarding or hiking together.

3. Suggest a meeting with the therapist. Most psychotherapists are back in the office setting, while some continue to offer telehealth conferencing counseling sessions. Teens who are feeling lonely and exhibit signs of depression need guidance by a mental health professional.

4. Suggest volunteering. Plenty of local organizations would love to have an enthusiastic teen on board to help out. There may be local food pantries or church organizations that the teen might want to help out. Helping others is a powerful cure for loneliness.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Arastou Aminzadeh is triple board certified physician in Psychiatry, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Addiction Medicine and is also co-founder of BNI Treatment Centers a residential mental health treatment program for teens in Los Angeles.