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.