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What to Do When You Feel Lonely

Medically reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD

What Is Loneliness?

Loneliness is feeling apart from people when you want to feel close. It’s feeling left out when you want to belong. It’s feeling alone when you want to be with friends.

Everyone feels lonely at times — even kids. Most of the time, lonely feelings don’t last long.

When kids feel lonely, they want to find ways to feel close to others. They want to know they belong, and that others understand and care about them. When they do, their loneliness can melt away.

Why Do Kids Feel Lonely?

Just like other kids, you might feel lonely if:

  • You miss someone. If a parent is away, or if friends aren’t around, you might feel lonely without them. It feels great when you can be together again! Lonely feelings fade when happier ones take their place.
  • Someone seems mad with you. Maybe you argued with a sibling or a friend. Or maybe a parent scolded you. When people aren’t happy with each other, they can feel lonely and apart. When you make up, or someone says “sorry,” you can feel close again.
  • No one knows what you’re going through. It can feel lonely to keep hard times or worries to yourself. But when you share what it’s like for you, hard times feel easier. Lonely feelings fade when someone listens and understands you.
  • Others try to make you feel you don’t belong. Sometimes kids get teased or left out. It feels lonely when you don’t feel accepted. But when a friend invites you to play — or you invite them — you feel included instead of lonely.
  • People seem too busy. Sometimes parents and older siblings are busy with their jobs, homework, or phones. Kids might feel lonely without time together. But when family members make time to play, laugh, talk, or read with you, you feel close instead of lonely.

What Can I Do if I Feel Lonely?

If you feel lonely, you can:

  • Notice and name the feeling. Just notice the feeling and say to yourself, “I feel lonely.” If you know why you feel lonely, say it to yourself: “I feel lonely because…”

    Try not to fight with the lonely feeling. Of course, you want it to go away. And it will. But first, give yourself a minute to notice that it’s there.

Then, you can try one or more of these things to feel better:

  • Find a friend. Invite someone to play or do something with you. When you’re together, lonely feelings fade quickly.
  • Find family time. Invite your parent, grandparent, or sibling to spend time with you. Maybe you can play a game, take a walk, or make some food together. Time to smile and laugh, talk, or just be together helps you feel close and loved.
  • Be kind or helpful. Give a helping hand or say kind words to someone. It could be a neighbor, a teacher, or someone at home. When you help, you feel part of your family, school, and community. You’re not lonely when you know you belong.
  • Be friendly. Smile and say hi to people at your school. It could be a friend, a classmate, or a new kid. It could be a teacher, bus driver, or crossing guard. When you act friendly (even for a moment) and someone is friendly back, lonely feelings float away.
  • Talk about your feelings. If you feel lonely, tell someone how you feel and why. It can be a parent or a friend — even a pet. When you share your feelings, and someone listens and understands, you feel close instead of lonely. You can share good feelings too.
  • Enjoy time alone. It’s nice to be by yourself sometimes. Maybe you like time alone to read, draw, play, dance, ride a bike, make music, do crafts, or build things — or just sit and think. Being alone doesn’t have to be lonely. You can be good company — and a good friend — to yourself.
  • Spend time in nature. Slow down to look at the sky, clouds, trees, birds, or plants. Listen to the sounds around you. Feel the air on your face and the ground under your feet. If you want, stretch your arms up toward the sky. Take a slow breath, in and out. Enjoy how it feels to be part of the world around you.

It's OK to feel lonely at times. Be kind to yourself when you feel this way. But lonely feelings don’t have to take over your mood or ruin your day. After you notice how you feel, you can do things to feel better.

Other people can help you feel better too. If lonely feelings last too long, or if you need more help, talk it over with a parent or another adult you trust.

Medically reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: October 2023