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The Importance of Belonging

NEWS 21 June 2022

It’s something that every person needs—to feel a sense of belonging, to be connected to others, and to feel the sense of purpose that comes with being involved in the routines and rituals of daily life.

Haileybury focuses on cultivating belonging and connection every day for students. This happens within the classroom and extends through children’s involvement in a wide range of activities outside the classroom. Families also play a pivotal role in supporting their children to feel a deep and secure connection to the people and places around them.

“When a student feels connected, it brings so many benefits, like contributing towards improved academic performance and enhancing overall wellbeing. Having a sense of belonging may be a foundation of learning and wellbeing and promote confidence, inclusiveness and safety,” says Maria Bailey, Haileybury Director of Counselling Services.

“Being involved in aspects of school life in the classroom or other areas such as sport or arts, celebrating individual differences and building relationships where children feel valued and part of something is very important. School and families can work together to help children develop that essential sense of belonging.”

Here, Maria and Diane Furusho, Haileybury’s Deputy Principal (Student Wellbeing, Respectful Relationships & Consent), share ideas on how parents can help children feel they are valued and that they belong.

For Younger Children

  • Provide opportunities for children to connect with other children by encouraging playdates.
  • Describe the positives about school and praise positive behaviour. Say things like ‘It was so great when you shared with your friends today’ or ‘It was kind that you helped your friend today’.
  • Promote self-esteem by teaching your child to be a good friend.
  • Arts and Craft can be a way of sharing stories about your child’s day and how they belong at school.
  • Encourage children to name and share their emotions to help build their emotional literacy.
  • If your child mentions they played with no-one today and feels anxious about this, remain calm and supportive. Encourage positive ways to foster relationships and teach your child behaviours that promote connection.
  • Encourage open questions about your child’s day that show you care. For example, ‘What game did you play today?’ or ‘who did you sit next to?’ When you ask ‘what, why and how’ questions mixed with care, you help to reinforce that your child belongs in different places and groups.
  • Encourage your child to develop areas of interest at home and at school, praise their little successes in those areas, and nurture the learning opportunities in the mistakes they make.
  • Encourage your child to identify someone they can trust emotionally and whom they can call on if they want to talk about something that is concerning them.

For Older Children

  • As children move through their years at school, peers are important but parents remain important, too. So, create formal and informal connection points through sport, going for a walk, driving your child to where they need to be, or regularly sharing a meal together.
  • Be present when your child wants to talk to you and listen with empathy rather than judgement.
  • When your child arrives home from school, offer them a snack and use that time as an opportunity to ask one or two questions like ‘What did you enjoy at school today and why?’ or ‘Were there any challenges—how did you manage that?’ Ask questions that help your child recognise they have been part of something.
  • Encourage children to get involved in school activities and promote a growth mindset to help develop their skills and interests. Encourage perseverance and persistence, rather than giving up too quickly, and gently remind your child that they signed up for an activity. Creating opportunities to solve problems helps children build sound decision-making skills that benefit them and the people around them.
  • Be positive when you take your children to school activities, like Saturday sport, and remind them of the fun they will have and the connections they will make when they take part.
  • If you are concerned that your child doesn’t seem to be involved and connected, contact the school and reach out to a teacher, Head of School, School Psychologist or a member of the Pastoral team.