When children feel a sense of belonging, they develop confidence and self-identity.
A Sense of Identity
Experiencing belonging–knowing where and with whom you belong –is integral to human existence. Children belong first to a family, a cultural group, a neighborhood and a wider community. Belonging acknowledges children’s interdependence with others and the basis of relationships in defining identities. In early childhood, and throughout life, relationships are crucial to a sense of belonging. Belonging is central to being and becoming in that it shapes who children are and who they can become.
A child learns and develops a sense of identity through their relationships and experiences at home, family interactions and their environment. As they play, learn and try new things, they will develop an understanding of their own identity.
It is important for children to develop an understanding of themselves as significant and respected in order to develop pride and strength in their own personal and cultural identity, as well as respect for others.
A Sense of Belonging
Fostering a sense of belonging for children can create an environment where learning can thrive. When learning feels open and collaborative, children feel safe to share ideas. They are confident in applying their knowledge or skills, and are supported when they take a risk or even experience failure. When children feel like someone knows them and believes in them, there is a greater motivation to succeed.
All children should feel that their world is a safe place where people care about them and their needs, they can develop positive relationships and where they will be able to seek help when needed. When these needs are met, children can 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 behavioral problems than others. They are also more motivated and more successful learners.
Children build and experience attachments with people as soon as they are born. Positive relationships that are warm, caring and consistent help children feel safe and secure. When children experience these relationships, they learn to use these skills in their own relationships with others. Developing and maintaining strong attachments with familiar adults and friends can have a positive effect on their mental health and wellbeing.
In childcare settings, children are part of a core of relationships between children, families and staff. Together everyone plays an important role in developing positive relationships. It is crucial that infants and young children are given the opportunity to build these connections in order to promote positive relationships as they grow.
Teachers Play a Role
In order to build a sense of belonging, young children need to learn the process of developing their skills to work with others. They must learn to play cooperatively, help others, have a sense of empathy, and be a part of a team. These skills are not automatic but are developed over time through healthy routines and consistent expectations that are set in the classroom.
Routines can help young children understand what to do so that they can focus on how to do things with others. Routines such as classroom jobs and keeping a consistent schedule can help young children feel and be a more confident participant of your classroom.
Parents Play a Role
When early childhood professionals and parents work together, it helps to create a positive sense of community for the child. Research has shown that a greater family involvement can have a positive impact in areas such as children’s early learning skills and behavior.
Creating good communication systems for busy parents is crucial to maintaining good levels of parent/early childhood staff partnerships. The Classroom Manager with Child Daily Journal can be useful tool. Staff can send messages and attach photos of children to their parents to share the events of the day. Sharing this information helps ensure that children’s needs are met effectively.
Developing a sense of belonging from a young age allows children to feel confident in exploring new ideas, engaging in learning and being self-expressive. Families and early childhood professionals can set children up to be strong leaders in the future.