Tips for the Lonely Child

Feeling Alone, Forlorn, Lost, Lonesome, Friendless, Deserted, Isolated, Without a Friend in the World, Abandoned, Cut off from …

Think back. Have you ever had an experience that triggered feelings described by these words? If you did, then you can relate to the emotion of loneliness that often occurs for children when a parent, or sibling accompanied by a parent, is an in-patient at the hospital for an extended period of time.

At SIBSPlace, the children talk about the feelings of being left behind. They might say they understand why someone has to go to the hospital, but that doesn’t make it better and it isn’t always the case that the child understands.

Children are usually unprepared for the separation, and if it’s a second or third hospitalization the trauma is re-triggered as they know the reality of the departure and sense of loss. Each time a doctor visit is scheduled they might experience the feelings of being on high alert; will my loved one need another procedure, another hospitalization? Who’s going to take care of me? Who’s going to help me; make my lunches? Be at home when I get home from school? Who will take me off the bus, help me with homework?

Aside from all those concerns around their own safety and well-being, they fear the loneliness of being without their parent’s presence and availability. When a young child has an ill loved one, you can often see the sad faces and hear what we call the screaming quiet. You know they are in that internal space where they are feeling isolated from the world and so filled with chaotic and confused emotions that they are unable to define with words. It is always difficult to see a child in such distress.

Rather than being powerless over events, there are actions we can take that will provide a sense of control. Helping children to prepare for the possibility of these necessary, though unwanted separations can reduce their painful ruminations and reactions. Here are some suggestions:

Tips for Parents

Tips for the Well Child

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