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Inclusiveness & Belonging

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

Written by: Juliana Jones

The benefits of inclusion are numerous for not only children but for families as well. When children feel included, they learn acceptance of other people, and that each person has unique abilities. Children learn from each other. Some of the main benefits of inclusion for children are friendship skills, peer models, problem solving skills, positive self-image, and respect for others (Bornstein, & Arterberry, 2010). These skills can be incorporated into family functions as well, which can help teach and/or remind parents or guardians to be more accepting of differences of others as well. Since parents and teachers know their children best, it is important to have good communication which teaches children to be more accepting of others and themselves. Open communication and learning help create consistency between both home and school. Working together and creating a partnership with families is an important part of inclusion and can help children reach their developmental potential (Bornstein, & Arterberry, 2010).

Some may wonder in which ways they can provide opportunities for inclusiveness. Strategies that promote inclusion are also strategies that promote meeting children at their individual developmental level. This is something that can benefit all children. By providing a wide range of developmentally appropriate materials and activities let’s all children be successful when working and playing. Having consistent routines and transitions can help children know what to expect and feel comfortable. One big factor when considering inclusiveness is the type of assistance given to children (Bornstein, & Arterberry, 2010). It is important to help children learn independence and give them enough help to be successful without helping them too much where they then become solely dependent on other people in order to be successful.

The sense of belonging is fundamental to the way humankind organizes itself. We often cannot separate the importance of a sense of belonging from our physical and mental health. Social ties that accompany a sense of belonging are a protective factor helping manage stress. When we feel we have support and are not alone, we often cope more effectively with difficult times in our lives. Coping well with hardship decreases the physical and mental impact of these difficult situations (Wickham, 2019). We begin life with the most crucial of needs, attachment to a caregiver. This is the beginning of our fundamental need for belonging. Studies have shown that children who have not achieved a healthy attachment in their young life have lower self-esteem, a more negative worldview, are mistrustful and can have a perception of rejections.

Depression, anxiety, and suicide are common mental health conditions associated with lacking a sense of belonging (Wickham, 2019). These conditions can lead to social behaviors that interfere with an individual’s ability to connect to others, creating a cycle of events which further weakens a sense of belonging, ultimately increasing symptoms and thoughts of depression, anxiety, and suicide. So, what can you do to increase a sense of belonging in your children and yourself?

  • First, make an effort.

    • You cannot belong if you don’t choose to make an effort to engage with others.

    • Put in an effort to seek activities and groups of people with whom you share common interests.

    • Encourage and support your children to get involved.

  • Secondly, keep and teach an open mind.

    • Try new activities and meet new people.

    • By doing this you can consider new ways of thinking.

    • Lead by example so your children see how it works.

  • Lastly, practice an attitude of acceptance (Hagerty, et al., 1996).

    • A large role of feeling like you belong is having the recognition that others have different ways of being, which don’t have to change you, but rather focus on similarities between others instead of differences.

Teach children to validate the feelings of others.

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