Helping Our Children Develop a Sense of Belonging
Updated: Mar 3, 2021
One of our basic needs as humans is to feel a sense of belonging. Whether it is our group of friends, our community neighborhood, our co-workers, or even on a big scale - the world - we crave to connect with others and feel confident in those connections. Because of our innate need to experience belongingness (yes, that's actually the word for this!) when we have trouble feeling like we belong it can create a lot of emotional distress and affect our sense of confidence and wellbeing.
When we are part of a group, an imperative factor to finding fulfillment and a sense of belongingness in these relationships is that we feel safe to show up as our authentic selves.
Especially for those of us who are shy, it can feel daunting when we attempt to make new friends or join a new group. "Will I fit in? Will they like me? Will I like them?" And the most important question, in my opinion, "Will they let me be myself?" When we are part of a group, an imperative factor to finding fulfillment and a sense of belongingness in these relationships is that we feel safe to show up as our authentic selves. If we need to give ourselves up in order to belong to a group, we can end up feeling unseen, lonely, and low in self-confidence.
Children have so many different scenarios as they grow up where they are being introduced to new groups of peers - school, dance class, sports. Part of their development is centered around developing social relationships and belonging to groups. Within these experiences, kiddos are likely to fall into groups where they don't feel they belong, so how can we set them up for success amidst that situation?
When our children learn that they are allowed to be their authentic selves at home, they learn they can be authentic in their relationships with others.
Seeing and loving our children for who they are, and embracing their essence, will set our children up for social success. When our children learn that they are allowed to be their authentic selves at home, they learn they can be authentic in their relationships with others. Not only that, because of this sense of self-acceptance, they will accept others more easily, helping to develop strong skills of empathy and compassion, making it even easier to develop social relationships.
Let's reflect. What is your child's essence? To build awareness around this, what consistent traits have they had as they've grown? What kind of play or activities are they most interested in? When do they feel most at ease, comfortable, or excited? Then, reflect on how you are supporting their essence to flourish. Do you have any worries or limiting beliefs about their essence - perhaps wishing they were different ("they're too ____" are statements to pay attention to when thinking of your child).
Good news is, it's never too late to rediscover your essence.
Beyond that, how can we begin to model self-acceptance for our children? By living in line with our own essence. What is your essence? Are you living in alignment with your essence - i.e. engaging in activities where you experience flow, pure joy, and connection to yourself? When are you most excited and happy? Now this may be harder to do than supporting your child's essence, because often, our essence as children is squashed by age 5 due to societal or familial expectations.
Good news is, it's never too late to rediscover your essence and find ways to live in which you can express that essence. Your child - and your inner child - will thank you.