Fitting in

Fitting in at school is a major concern for young people. Perceptions of belonging and peer acceptance have been shown to affect adolescent development, and teens’ social and academic outcomes. Students who feel that they fit in at school are more likely to participate in school activities, have friends, perform better academically and have good mental health.

Schools can play an important role in fostering a sense of belonging and fitting in among students. Celebrating the diversity of students, creating opportunities for connection building in and out of the classroom, developing effective communication approaches, and helping students to be themselves and find their group are practical ways to achieve this result.

Top tips for supporting your students

  • Take the time to build relationships and connections with and among the students in your classroom.

  • Encourage your students to become involved in school activities of interest, such as sports, debating, music or social justice. Involvement can help connect them with like-minded students in environments where they feel that they fit in.

  • Show an interest in all your students. Ask questions, be respectful, celebrate diversity, and value all relationships and connections across the school community.

  • Consider using buddy programs across year groups to help students settle into secondary school. Partnering a junior student with a senior student can help the younger student feel connected, learn the ins and outs of secondary school, and develop friendships across year groups.

  • Use classroom management strategies that promote safe, supportive, respectful and connected classroom environments. Avoid isolating and embarrassing students and using disrespectful language.

Classroom activities

Making friends and building connections

Help students explore ways they can form new connections and build friendships in a variety of contexts.

Gaining confidence to connect

Students can feel lonely anywhere, anytime – no matter how many people are physically around them. Use this lesson to help students feel confident to connect with others and gain confidence and skills for social situations.

Rephrasing for a growth mindset

Students learn to rephrase negative statements into positive thoughts to encourage a growth mindset. Growth mindsets are essential not only for academic achievement, but also in social and emotional learning.

Hot potato

By sharing thoughts and experiences with each other, students can form a sense of belonging within the classroom. This can strengthen connections and relationships between students and alleviate feelings of loneliness.

Where do I feel like I belong?

Feeling left out and isolated can make life hard. Students who are bullied often feel isolated from social activities and that they aren’t connecting with others. Knowing that there are places where they belong can improve their mental health and wellbeing.

Resources for students

ReachOut works with young people across Australia to develop content. You could share some of these resources with your students.

Young people share where they feel like they belong

Feeling connected is really important for your mental health and wellbeing, as it helps you to feel valued and welcomed. Watch ReachOut’s video and hear from young people who share about the places they feel like they belong.

Practical ideas on how to develop confidence

Learn how to be more assertive, to face life's challenges, and to have a little more faith in yourself.

Learn how to develop and maintain good friendships

Learn how to maintain your good friendships, work through bad friendships and deal with the tough times.

3 steps to better communication

Communicating well can help you to maintain good relationships, avoid conflict and even increase your likelihood of getting what you want. Learn how active listening, assertive communication, and body language all add up to awesome communication skills.

Resources for parents and carers

ReachOut works with parents across Australia to develop content that helps them to support their young person. You could share some of these resources with your parent community.

Friendships and teenagers

It’s important for teenagers to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance by their peers. Friendships can be a network of great support and can offer protection against negative peer relationships such as bullies.

Effective communication and teenagers

As your child grows up, the way you communicate with them will need to change to reflect the new boundaries in your relationship created by their increasing independence. Discovering these new and different approaches to communicating effectively with one another will be a learning experience for you both.

Helping teenagers to make friends

Teens need to make friends by themselves, and that’s tough for some young people. Unfortunately, the days when you managed their social life are gone. Your role now is to empower them to do it for themselves.

Self-confidence in teenagers

Teenagers are confronted with a variety of tough issues, and learning how to deal with them can test their confidence. By becoming more accepting of themselves, teenagers become better equipped to deal with hurtful things that may damage their self-confidence.

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