Helping Your Child Feel Connected to School

Michelle C. on January 20, 2012

All parents want their child to do well in school, be healthy, and avoid behaviours that are risky or harmful. In BC and around the world, research clearly shows that youth who feel a sense of belonging at school are more likely to do well and have better mental health. This sense of belonging is often called school connectedness. By helping your child feel connected to their school, you can support your child’s mental health and well-being.

What does it mean for my child to feel connected to school?

Students who are connected to school believe that their parents, teachers, principals, and other students in their school care about their learning and about them as a person. They feel they are part of the school, participate in school activities, and feel safe at school. Connected students also get along with other students and believe that their teachers are fair and caring.

Why is it important for my child to feel connected to school?

There are many benefits for youth who feel connected to school.  Research shows that they do better in school, have a greater sense of well-being, and better health later in life.

Young people who feel a strong connection to their school are more likely to:

  • Have high self-esteem

  • Get better grades

  • Have higher test scores

  • Attend school regularly

  • Aspire to attend college or university

In addition, youth who feel connected to their school are less likely to:

  • Smoke cigarettes

  • Drink alcohol

  • Have sexual intercourse

  • Experience emotional distress

  • Be involved in bullying or violence

  • Have depression or anxiety

  • Consider or attempt suicide

What can I do to increase my child’s connection to school?

Everybody has a role to play to create a welcoming, supportive environment at school - teachers, principals, parents, and students themselves. There are many things that you as a parent can do to help your child feel more connected to school. Here are some suggestions:

  • Encourage your child to talk openly with you, teachers, counsellors, and other school staff about his or her ideas, needs, and worries.

  • Read school newsletters, attend parent-teacher-student conferences, and check out the school’s website to learn what’s going on at the school.

  • Encourage your child to participate in school activities like clubs, sports teams, special events, peer tutoring, teacher assistance, and service learning opportunities.

  • As your schedule allows, help in your child’s classroom, attend after-school events, or participate in a school committee.

  • Offer to share important aspects of your culture with your child’s class.

  • If your first language is not English, ask for materials that are translated into the language you speak at home, and ask for an interpreter to help you at school events.

  • Suggest changes to make the school’s physical environment more pleasant and welcoming ,such as a school garden or student-made mural.

  • Find opportunities to use the school building and property outside of school hours for recreation and community events.

Building a relationship with your child’s teachers and other school staff can be the first step to increase your child’s feeling of belonging at their school. This connection can have a big impact on your child’s mental health and well-being now and as they grow up.

Comments

is it possible to have access to the actual research articles that support the information above?

03/02/2012

Hi there,

The information for this blog post came from a number of different sources, but I've listed two of the most important ones here for you:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. School Connectedness: Strategies for Increasing Protective Factors among Youth. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2009.

Smith, A., Poon, C., Stewart, D., Hoogeveen, C., Saewyc, E., and the McCreary Centre Society (2011). Making the right connections: Promoting positive mental health among BC youth. Vancouver, BC: McCreary Centre Society.

I hope that's helpful!

Thanks!

06/02/2012
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BC Children's Hospital

This is an agency of Provincial Health Services Authority, providing provincial tertiary mental health services to the citizens of British Columbia. Programs include: Adult Tertiary Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry, Forensic Psychiatric Services, Child & Adolescent Mental Health, Women’s Reproductive Mental Health, as well as the Provincial Specialized Eating Disorders Program for children and youth located at the BC Children’s Hospital.

Provincial Health Services Authority

Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) is one of six health authorities – the other five health authorities serve geographic regions of BC.

Ministry of Health

British Columbia Ministry of Health

RBC Children's Mental Health Project

RBC Children’s Mental Health Project is RBC's cornerstone “health and wellness” pillar; RBC Children’s Mental Heath Project is a multi-year philanthropic commitment to support community-based and hospital programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase public awareness about children’s mental health issues.

BC Children's Hospital Foundation

Through a wide range of fundraising events and opportunities, The BC Children's Hospital Foundation is united with its donors by a single, simple passion - to improve the health and the lives of the young people who enter BC Children's Hospital every day.