How to Help Kids Fight Loneliness

How to palm read at your own party

The ways we can help children fight loneliness are getting easier. Kids worldwide are suffering disproportionately from loneliness. Loneliness is defined as the feeling caused by the difference between expected social interaction and how much actual social interaction you actually have.

The pandemic and enforced isolation have increased loneliness for all of us.

Full disclosure: I am not a clinical or research psychologist, I am an event professional. My company, Handy Entertainment, creates meaningful and personalized event entertainment that connects people. What I bring to the table is what I’ve learned working in events, working with kids at events, and as an educator.

What does this have to do with entertainers?

Entertainers develop traits associated with the positive psychology that the Renzulli Center for Creativity, Gifted Education and Talent Development offers through their educational program, ‘Operation Houndstooth.’ ‘Operation Houndstooth’ focuses on creating educational environments to support and encourage the development of attributes associated with giftedness.

The Traits of Positive Psychology

These attributes are:

• Optimism

• Courage

• Romance with a Topic/Discipline

• Sensitivity to Human Concerns

• Physical/Mental Energy

• Vision/Sense of Destiny

Entertainers, as a group, develop many of these same traits. The majority of entertainers (including musicians, actors, dancers, plus stage managers, directors, and producers) are self-employed or freelancers. Some freelancers obtain long-term engagements with, for example, cruise ships, companies like Cirque du Soleil, or on Broadway.

There are long stretches in a freelance entertainer’s life when they are literally on their own. They rehearse, audition, take jobs outside of the industry, work on their craft, and in some cases, just try to survive. That is what is currently happening in the entertainment industry. The pandemic has disproportionately affected the events industries.

What is it that makes entertainers this way?

Entertainers develop resilience while auditioning. They are frequently told, all on the same day, that they are too tall, too short, too fat, too thin, too old, too young. By creating a system where ‘failure’ is frequent and an accepted part of the practice, entertainers strengthen their resilience, and cultivate tools for survival.

What are some of the tools that performers use, and how can we make them available to our kids?

Here is what I’ll call ‘The Performers Tool Kit.’

Though these aren’t a traditional part of formal training for performing artists at universities or conservatories, they are lessons that are usually learned on the road of hard knocks:

  1. Build your network.
  2. Know who you can call, and call them. Reach out to get info, reach out to verify info, and reach out to share it.
  3. You are only as strong as the weakest link in your network. You can text or email, but talking to someone is better, and we all know that.
  4. Take care of your instrument. Your body is your instrument. You need to keep it tuned with sleep, exercise, healthy food, and mindfulness.
  5. Gratitude is everything. Express gratitude in acts of kindness, random acts of kindness, or anonymous ones. It can be as simple of being grateful for being alive, for having parents, having siblings, teachers, something to eat, a sunny day, etc.
  6. Call someone. Anyone. A friend who moved away, a grandparent, aunt, or uncle. Text works too, or emailing. Reach out to people who are sick, struggling, living alone, or are caregivers.
  7. Write a card, or a letter. Yes, it’s old-fashioned. It feels good and it does good.
  8. Find a non-profit where you can volunteer. Purposeful action gives you a sense of agency. A sense of agency (control) counteracts feelings of anxiety and despair.

Back to entertainers:

Actors learn how to create ‘what if’ situations.

There might be a kooky director who tells you to pretend you are swimming through an ocean of peanut butter to save someone, other times, you might have to act as if you don’t see those people having a loud discussion in the back of the theater.

These ‘what-ifs’ are superpowers right now. We have the tools to  make stone soup, a fable about contributing to the greater good with  seemingly insignificant offerings. Let’s look at creating meaningful interactions.

What is a meaningful interaction?

Meaningful interaction can be as short as one minute. At its best, it is reciprocal. People feel seen, heard, and accepted in a meaningful  interaction. This is something that we can model for children, something  that can help them tremendously.

Ways to create meaningful interaction

We can ask children something as simple as, “What was the best part of your day?”  This gives them the chance to connect with their emotions. With kids, there’s a good chance you’ll get an eye roll in response to that question, so here are some other options:

  • “If you could have any one super power, which one would you choose? Why?”
  • “Let’s say you can have dinner with any one person in the world (historic  figures included). Who would you invite?”
  • “Things you would want to talk about?”
  • “Tell me, what is the dumbest invention of all time? The smartest? Why?
  • “If there were one thing that you’d say most people misjudge about you, what would that be?”

All of these questions have one thing in common—they are deeply personal. If someone is brave enough to share deeply personal information with you, give them the courtesy of paying complete attention to them.

Loneliness and adolescents

According to studies published by the National Institutes of Health in May, 2020, “early indications in the COVID-19 context indicate that more than one-third of adolescents report high levels of loneliness.

How can we help our kids get through this? Not just get through it, but help them emerge on the other side just a little stronger,  better-equipped, and ready to take on life?

We can use tools that performers use and that are taught in gifted programs to help children work through the isolation and loneliness they are currently experiencing.

As a performer, I have many friends who are in the entertainment industry. When Broadway closed, film production shut down, Cirque closed down, I saw friends panic and struggle. Imagine working your entire career for that moment where you have a lead role in a world-renowned production. Then—suddenly—it’s gone through no fault of your own. The worst part has been that there has been no recourse—you couldn’t just go out on a cold call.  Do you have a place to live? Food? Family? Friends? For people whose work often took center stage, it has been humbling to be left bare-naked in the world with nothing but the basics—food, shelter, family—for the lucky ones.

Creating opportunities to practice these skills will not only help children through this time of isolation and loneliness. More importantly, we will help them learn how to create meaningful connections. Building meaningful connections is a skill that can help all of us, old and young, of any persuasion or background.

Handy Entertainment creates meaningful connections as the basis for all our work.

Our event entertainment is personalized. We bring people together and forge real connections. You’ll find us at proms, graduation parties, birthday celebrations, lock-ins, teacher appreciation, anniversaries, going away parties, wedding celebrations, fundraisers, Bar- and Bat Mitzvah celebrations, and anywhere good people come together to celebrate and create connection. Tell us how we can help you celebrate your next event TODAY!

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