How to Teach Kids about Belonging: Words from a 10-Year-Old Student
By Jenny Woo and Kalon Woo
How do you create BELONGING?
What can kids do to help their peers feel a sense of belonging?
What do students need from their teachers and school to feel like they belong?
These were the prompts from a regional K-12 speech contest. As a parent and educator with preteen twins and a newly minted teenager, I find the topic of belonging more essential than ever.
How do we teach kids to recognize “belonging?” If we label “belonging” with emotions, then what would they be when you feel a sense of belonging? And equally important, when you don’t feel it?
Taking a step further, how do we help our kids navigate and cultivate belonging for themselves? And for others? I believe these questions are crucial in the age of social media when viral trends have broadened the meaning and impacts of peer pressure. The ability to like, comment, and share has also equipped everyone with the ability to extend to or deny belonging from others.
But how do we explain “belonging” in simple words? I posed this challenge to my 10-year-old son. Below is how he recognizes belonging and his tips on what we can do to cultivate belonging for ourselves and for our community. Check out Kalon’s words of advice:
Here’s the Transcript from Kalon’s Video:
Have you ever wondered what belonging means? Well, belonging means that you feel safe, accepted, and respected. When you don’t belong, you feel sad, lonely, and rejected. And no one wants to feel that.
Here’s a secret that will help you feel like you belong no matter where you are: love and accept yourself. For example, if someone says something bad to you, speak up to tell them to stop. Don’t let their negative words get to you. You can also use your coping superpowers to remind yourself that you’re kind and courageous, and you can go to someone you trust for advice. Remember, it matters less what other people say about you than what you say to yourself.
A simple but powerful thing I do to help others feel like they belong is to ask questions! I try to do this with my family, friends, and teammates. It shows that I care about what they have to say, and it helps them feel heard and valued.
We all want to feel like we belong at our school. Teachers can help us feel like we matter by really getting to know who we are, such as our favorite hobbies and the things we care about outside of school. It’s also important to make sure everyone gets to participate in classroom conversations. Schools should have activities that welcome and value participation from families with different backgrounds. I feel like I belong at my school when I feel safe and understood, and that motivates me to try harder and be my best.
Dr. Jenny Woo is a Harvard-trained educator, TEDx speaker, and founder/CEO of Mind Brain Parenting. Jenny is the creator of a series of award-winning emotional intelligence games: 52 Essential Conversations, 52 Essential Relationships, 52 Essential Critical Thinking Skills, and 52 Essential Coping Skills. She is a mother to two elementary-age children and one middle schooler.