Rejection: The Crisis of Belonging

Belonging - I am important to someone and they want to know what my life is like – not only what I need help with but what my strengths are too.

The power and influence of positive human relationships in fostering resilience cannot be overstated. Urie Bronfenbrenner, a developmental psychologist renowned for his ecological systems theory of child development, once stated that ”every child needs at least one adult who is irrationally crazy about him or her.” Bronfenbrenner believed this was the greatest factor contributing to one’s healthy well-being later in life. Family and social environmental processes associated with resiliency include a stable, nurturing parent or caregiver, a connection to an adult in the extended family, and consistent family processes such as rituals, traditions, and structure. But when children have experienced or continue to experience trauma and toxic stress, sometimes the need for belonging is not met. What we know now is that if families can’t always provide a sense of belonging and the connections children need, schools are the next best place to meet these needs. This is why the National Center for Traumatic Stress Network has issued a call to action for schools to play a critical role in addressing childhood trauma.

How about those whose sense of belonging is stripped from them at school because of how they self-identify? How many of us have taken pause within our leadership meetings or when collaborating with our colleagues to be curious about why many youth who identify as LGBT+ don’t feel safe to be who they are at school, and consequently suffer academically and emotionally?

According to GLSEN, 85.2% of LGBT+ youth report being harassed at school. Regardless of one’s values or beliefs, educators must respond to this call for help. We must create environments where all kids can show up authentically and be accepted for who they are in order to learn to the best of their ability.

Click below to learn more about crisis of belonging LGBT+ youth—as well as many other students—face in our schools.

Make sure to take advantage of Pride month savings by purchasing Starr's LGBT Youth: From Trauma to Belonging eCourse before July 1!

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By Dr. Caelan Soma, PsyD, LMSW

Dr. Caelan Soma, PsyD, LMSW, Chief Clinical Officer, oversees all clinical operations and research at Starr Commonwealth. Dr. Soma provides trauma assessment and trauma-informed, resilience-focused intervention for youth utilizing evidence-based practices, including Starr’s SITCAP© model programs.

About Starr Commonwealth

Starr Commonwealth is dedicated to the mission to lead with courage to create positive experiences so that all children, families, and communities flourish. We specialize in residential, community-based, educational, and professional training programs that build on the strengths of children, adults, and families in communities around the world. To schedule a training or consultation, please contact or call 800-837-5591.