A sense of belonging in a classroom or school is a protective factor for children’s mental health.

What Goes Into School Belonging?

To feel a sense of belonging at school, children should believe that they’re supported, respected, and accepted by their teachers and peers. They should feel connected to the school community and believe that their teachers care about them both as individuals and as learners.

What are the Benefits?

Children who experience school belonging will benefit in many ways, such as:

  • More likely to stay engaged in schoolwork
  • Better academic performance
  • Feeling happy and self-confident
  • Less likely to experience loneliness, anxiety, and depression
  • Less likely to engage in risky behaviors (like substance abuse or violence)

6 Ways Teachers Can Help

Teachers play a huge role in helping children foster a sense of school belonging. Research has shown that when teachers demonstrate that they’re caring and supportive, children feel more connected to the school.

  1. Connect individually. Taking time to work one-on-one or by discussing a child’s personal interests helps. This can just be a quick greeting, remembering something that they mentioned in class or asking about something they’ve shared. We have classroom conversation starters that may help you get to know your students.
  2. Encourage peer connections. Children who feel close with classmates feel more engaged at school and are more likely to believe that they belong. Grow stronger peer relationships in your classroom by giving students opportunities to learn about each other during certain lessons and by letting students work together on some class activities.
  3. Empower students. Students who have a say in how they spend parts of the school day are more likely to have a greater sense of school belonging, and they’re less likely to be disruptive during class. Consider seeking student input while creating classroom rules or when deciding what topics to focus on during certain lessons.
  4. Be aware of social dynamics. Kids have a greater sense of school belonging when their teachers know who their friends are and which students need social support to avoid bullying or social isolation.
  5. Share positive expectations. Let students know you believe that they’ll succeed academically. When teachers expect them to excel, students are more likely to feel that they belong.
  6. Set clear expectations. Outline acceptable classroom behaviors, explain the consequences of breaking rules, and then discipline students consistently, without playing favorites. The sense of fairness helps students feel connected to their school community.

How Can Parents Help?

Parents can also bolster a sense of school belonging. Take an interest in their life at school by having conversations. You might ask:

  • What are you learning at school?
  • Who do you spend time with at school? What kinds of things do you do together?
  • What do you like about your teacher?
  • What do you wish your teacher knew about you?

You can also help your child grow connected to classmates by encouraging your children to participate in extracurricular activities with peers and helping them socialize with friends after school. Parents can also print the school calendar and attend school events and activities, when possible, to show their kids they are interested in their school environment.