Your tweens and teens are lonely -- and they want your help, this expert says

The emotional life of teens and tweens is complex. Therapist John Duffy suggests checking in often and helping them find opportunities to form meaningful connections with peers.

Psychologist John Duffy, author of "Parenting the New Teen in the Age of Anxiety," practices in Chicago. He specializes in work with teens, parents, couples and families.

(CNN)Teens and tweens may not come out and tell you, but there is a lot they want you to know about their lives. Yes, sometimes adolescents have surly attitudes. However, they still need your help as allies, guides and consultants. Here are some of their thoughts I've gleaned from my teen and tween clients, along with guidance for parents.

I'm lonely and alone a lot

Your kids may seem engaged with their friends in person and online yet, from what I am directly hearing, there is an epidemic of loneliness among tweens and teens. Some of them go out alone in order to evade parental radar. Some claim to be Snapchatting or texting with friends when they are actually watching Netflix or listening to music in solitude.
    Our teens and tweens need us to check in on them often. Make sure they are engaged with peers through groups, clubs or sports. I'm told that reliance on occasional get-togethers and online connections don't fulfill their social needs.
      QUICK TIP: Sit down with your child and watch their show or video with them, grab an earbud and listen to their music, or play their video game. Talk to them about their interests. Then, brainstorm ways they might pursue those interests with peers.
      If your child is still struggling to make meaningful connections, read through psychologist Kyler Shumway's "The Friendship Formula," preferably together.

      You don't know what's on my mind

        All too often, teens and tweens are not particularly forthcoming, so parents are left guessing what their kids are thinking. And the guesses are often well off the mark. Our children's inner lives are complex. Adolescents are navigating many identities all at once: their identity at home, at school, with friends, with teachers, online and with themselves. Kids' internal lives are complicated and, because they compare themselves to others, they are often sad as well.
        Our kids are also struggling emotionally. More are suffering from depression and anxiety than ever before, judging themselves in the negative light through which they assume others judge them. Scrolling through digitally altered images of their peers enjoying themselves online compounds their insecurities. The combination of these factors often leaves our kids feeling overwhelmed.
        Try these 5 ways to practice mindfulness with your kids