Meaningful connections and the feeling of belonging can mean the world to children and adolescents. Let’s think about ourselves. When we feel we are wanted, we want to be there. When we feel we are needed, we want to contribute. When we feel cared for by others, we want to care for others. Research shows that students who feel connected at school or activities are more likely to stay in school, finish school, feel safe at school and help school feel safe.
How do we help our children feel connected to others?
Ask your child for help and give them chores: As parents we definitely need help. When we ask for help, our child knows his or her contribution to the family is important and needed. Yes, we will hear complaints, but easing your child into chores and helping promotes responsibility as well as feeling needed and wanted in the family.
Help them find positive environments: When you try out different activities, search out the activities that match your child’s interests and personality. Check in with the adults supervising the program to know what your child is doing if you are not there. Check in with your child to gather their feelings about the activities. Finding a good match with the right activities can help foster that feeling of belonging. Talking with you about how activities feel can help your child learn when something is comfortable and when something does not feel like a fit (a lifelong skill).
Talk to others who see your child: Connect with your child’s teachers to see if your child is connected at school. Ask what your child does in work groups. Find out if your child feels comfortable contributing to groups. Ask if your child finds company during free time. Ask what your child chooses during recess. These questions will shed light on your child’s connection with peers and daily events. They will also give you ideas about possible interest areas for your child, which can help you choose meaningful activities.
Talk to your child about their daily activities: Taking time to connect with your child about his or her day builds connection at home and checks in on his or her perceptions of connection to peers and teachers. Remember to make eye contact and put away any distractions, so they know you are really listening. Once you get a response to your first question, ask a follow-up question to get a little more information. You can ask:
- What was one funny thing that happened?
- What was for lunch?
- What did you play at recess?
- What did you do at choice time?
- Tell me how band (or a class that is fun or a favorite) went.
- What was one interesting thing that you learned today?
We all want to feel needed and wanted. When we have a connection to others, we have reason to be there and to care. Let’s create a connection with our children to show them how wanted, needed, and cared for they are. Let’s give them the tools to create those connections themselves.