Creating a Sense of Belonging for Children

Around the time I turned 40, I decided to join a triathlon club.

To give you some perspective on this decision, my parents still tell the story of when, as a young child, I ran into a pool, sank to the bottom and sat there until my frantic Mom pulled me out.

While, I’m guessing there’s a bit of hyperbole in this story, one thing is true: I am NOT a natural born swimmer.

But I was determined. I bought a neon yellow swim cap so the boats could see me in the water. Every Friday morning at 6am, my swim buddy Christine and I, practiced in the Intracoastal waterway along Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina.

Now, I’m not sure if you’ve ever had the opportunity to swim a distance in the ocean. If you have, then you know that I couldn’t see anything. At all! It was dark and sometimes things touched me. I was not okay with this!  In my mind every bump was a shark–but again I was determined.

My mantra became “Safety Bubble.”

I would imagine myself encircled by a shark-proof bubble as I slowly swam along. When I got really creeped out, I recited “safety bubble” over and over again in my head.

You know what?

It worked. I trained weekly, finished the triathlon and avoided all sharks. I wasn’t as lucky with the jellyfish, though.

Why am I telling you about this?

I shared this story and the safety bubble mantra with a parent that I worked with and she sent me a Christmas card that said, “Thank you for all your help over the years. You have helped be my safety bubble.”  

{{Heart Swells}}

This is what I want for you and your kids. I want you to have a safety bubble filled with people that help keep your personal sharks away.

I want you to be part of a cozy community filled with connection, compassion, openness and mutual caring for one another.

Why is this important?

  • A cozy community gives you peace of mind. You know you can reach out to people you trust and share your wins and challenges with them. There is power in working through things in community instead of in isolation. We learn from each other.
  • Belonging creates a sense of connection and acceptance. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs places belonging as our greatest need after our physiological and safety requirements are met. You feel less alone because others share similar experiences and their solutions.
  • A cozy community can act as an immunization of sorts against shame. A safe, non judgmental, compassionate space to talk with trusted people about problems and share mistakes creates resilience to shame. As Brene Brown says, “Shame cannot survive being spoken.”

How do you create a cozy community in your office, classroom and/or home?

Build a common emotional language to create understanding and a kind of short code so you (and your kids) don’t have to explain yourself (themselves) to feel seen and heard.

A teacher friend of mine uses the phrase “Cheeky Monkey” when a child is bending the rules. Her kids think this is hysterical. She’s able to set a boundary, avoid power struggles and shift the energy to playfulness with two little words. Brilliant!

Share activities and traditions to increase emotional connection, bond people and give a sense of history and purpose to your family, class or group.

When I was a child it was a big event in my family when the Sound of Music and the Wizard of Oz were on tv because they only aired once a year. We’d set up our sleeping bags on the floor, get our snacks ready and hunker down to watch as a family.  

Share stories to illustrate the common values of your family, class or group.

Common values are one of the primary things that create a sense of belonging. Sharing stories that exemplify these values helps people know if they belong or not.

That’s what I’m doing with these articles…sharing the Growing Up Confident Collective values of curiosity, collaboration and cozy community. If you missed the previous two you can read about them here: Curiosity and Collaboration. 

What would be possible if you were part of a cozy community of people who are actively engaged in teaching kids social and emotional skills so they grow up confident and loving who they are? 

What would be different if you had immediate access to people who not only understand what you’re going through, but who also give you support and answer any questions you might have?

That’s what we’re creating in the Growing Up Confident Collective.

You’re invited to explore what becoming a member looks like in our cozy community. Check it out here! 

Next up we’re going to talk about the two lenses you can view children’s behavior through: the emotional lens and the behavioral lens. Knowing how to choose which lens to use is a gamechanger!