The importance of belonging cannot be underestimated. From a wellbeing perspective there is probably no more important ingredient to leading a connected, happy and fulfilling life. Many studies have shown that the down turn in general wellbeing at ages 18-25 and 45-55 are primarily due to either leaving a school community or the disruption to the family balance, both occurrences are direct results of the removal of a feeling of “belonging”.
For our children the feeling of belonging is absolutely key to their wellbeing. All children need to feel that their world is a safe place where people will care about them, where their needs for support, respect and friendship will be met, and where they will be able to get help to work out any problems. When these needs are met children develop a sense of belonging. A sense of belonging has been found to help protect children against mental health problems and improve their learning. Children who feel that they belong are happier, more relaxed and have fewer behavioural problems than others. They are also more motivated and more successful learners.
So what can we do to help our students feel more connected?
At school we:
- Encourage the small, daily interactions between staff and students, the greetings and general conversations.
- Provide multiple opportunities to contribute to school life – academic, spiritual, sporting, House comps, cultural, ministry, IT, debating, etc.
- Provide a multi layered approach to pastoral care – Mentors, classroom teachers, Year Coordinators, Middle Management, Executive.
- Recognise our Charism, history, diversity and traditions.
- Listen to your child, asking them about their day and talking through any concerns they may have. Take time to interact with your kids without distractions – show them that you value spending time with them giving plenty of encouragement that values effort over success.
- Allow opportunity to engage in wider family support and/or community – sport, arts, music, cultural etc.
Loretta Browne, Year 9 Wellbeing & Engagement Coordinator