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. 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.
Belonging matters in early childhood and school
A sense of belonging and connectedness at early childhood services and school helps to protect children against mental health difﬁculties and improves their learning.
When parents and carers feel connected to their early childhood service or school, children find it easier to understand what is expected of them and are better able to manage the ups and downs of life. They learn better and have better mental health.
Being connected is about knowing you can seek support when you need it, that you will be listened to, and that you can work together with staff to help your child learn and develop.
Support may come from talking with educators or from making connections with other families. Sometimes you might be feeling that things are going well, but just want to have a general chat about your child.
Taking a positive interest in what happens at your child’s early childhood service or school can also make it easier to pick up any problems early when they are easiest to resolve.
Tips for parents and carers
A good way for parents and carers to support their children’s sense of belonging is to work together with their early childhood service or school.
Here are some tips for parents and carers on how to do this:
- Make time to listen to your child tell you about what he or she has done during the day.
- Let the staff know if your child is having difficulties and discuss what kinds of things can be done both at home and at the school or service to help.
- Make contact with your child’s key staff teacher or educator and keep in touch.
- Ask for help if you don’t understand something.
- Share information about your child’s likes, interests and preferences with educators.
- Get involved - find out if there are ways you can help out or take part in activities at your child's school or service. Attend information sessions and social activities at your school or service whenever you can.
- Be informed - check for notices that are sent home and keep informed about activities through newsletters and other communications.
- Make contact with other families at your school or service. Perhaps meet up informally with family members of other children in your child’s class or group, find out about parent social groups or join a parent committee.