Family, Kids & Relationships

How to respond when your child says “No one loves me”

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Does your child ever say things like “No one loves me” when they’re feeling down or frustrated? You’re not alone! While your first instinct is probably to counter with “Of course we love you!” you’ll need to go deeper than that to address the real issue at hand.

When a kid is feeling unlovable or repeating statements doubting their own worthiness, there could be many underlying reasons. Maybe they don’t know how to react to losing a game or being disciplined, maybe they’re feeling insecure or anxious about something, maybe they’re really hungry or tired, or maybe they’re having an overwhelming day that’s making their negative feelings run high.

Since this can be a really tricky topic for families, here’s a suggested script for what you can say when your kiddo is repeating these types of heartbreaking phrases.

And don’t worry—if your kiddo says their own version of “no one loves me” over and over so many times that you end up exploding with anger or frustration—well, you’re certainly not alone in that either! Apologize for overreacting, and have a do-over when you’re calmer.

How to respond when your child says “No one loves me”

Your discussion can include…

  • Reminding them how much they’re loved
  • Asking questions to find out how they’re feeling
  • Empathizing and validating their feelings
  • Listing what’s true and untrue
  • Brainstorming ways to keep the love close
  • Underscoring unconditional love and self-love

Reminding them how much they’re loved

“I love you so, so, so, so much. I love you all the time, even when we’re sleeping, even when you’re at school and I’m at work, even when we’re mad at each other, and even when we make mistakes. There’s never a time when I don’t love you. Do you have any questions about that?”

“Can you think of other people who love you too?”

Asking questions to find out how they’re feeling

“Why did you say ‘no one loves me’? Did something happen to make you feel that way?”

“Do you always feel this way when you lose a game? Or is something else making you feel yucky inside today?”

Empathizing and validating their feelings

“I understand that you might feel sad and disappointed when you can’t get what you want. That’s a really hard feeling. You know, I feel that way sometimes too, so I know how hard it can be.”

“It helps me when I remind myself that everyone probably feels a little disappointed every day. If everyone got exactly what they wanted all of the time, the world wouldn’t even be interesting! People would have no reason to try harder or come up with new ideas or figure out how to fix things.”

Listing what’s true and untrue

“When you said ‘no one loves me,’ do you think that was true or not true? What’s something you could say instead that would be true? How about, ‘I’m feeling left out’ or ‘I want a snuggle break’ or ‘I’m frustrated that I keep losing’?”

“We can even make a list of everything that’s true and not true about what happened today.”

Brainstorming ways to keep the love close

“What helps you feel loved? Do you like getting hugs and kisses? Do you like when I read to you? When Auntie plays hide-and-seek with you? When you get all wrapped up in a warm towel? When we all work together to get the table set for dinner?”

“You can package up those cozy, warm, loving feelings and keep them with you wherever you go. So if you’re ever feeling bad, you can remind yourself, ‘I am loved.’ How can I help you remember this all the time, even if I’m not right there to give hugs?”

Underscoring unconditional love and self-love

“Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone loses games. I make mistakes every single day. And when I play games, I lose about half of the time!”

“When we make mistakes or things don’t go the way we want, we can learn a lot from that. And because I love you, I’m here to help you with that learning. And if you love yourself, you can help yourself too.”

“And remember, our love doesn’t change when we make mistakes or lose games, or when we’re not getting all the attention we want at that exact moment. Our love is always and forever—and that includes our love for each other and our love for ourselves!”

Joanna Eng is a staff writer and digital content specialist at ParentsTogether. She lives with her wife and two kids in New York, where she loves to hike, try new foods, and check out way too many books from the library.