Being part of a family is about acceptance and belonging; being a part of a community where your presence, your needs, and your contributions matter. It says, “You are wanted, and you are important.” In our world of change it is more important than ever to instill a sense of belonging in your children; belonging is an anchor to help kids feel secure and confident. It’s easy to instill a sense of belonging when your children are small, but continue to send those reminders as they grow and develop their own personalities.

The need to belong continues as your kids grow up. Teens especially will need this reassurance during those turbulent years. Feeling misguided and lost, or lacking confidence and social placement are typical feelings for teens, so having a network of family support is crucial. Without reassurance and acceptance from the family, your young adults may look for satisfaction in other places (drugs, alcohol, gang activity, popularity, sexual activity, early dating); they may run away, engage in self-harm, or simply lose their direction.

Use these strategies to help anchor younger children, ultimately bringing them confidence and a sense of belonging down the road.

Ritual and routine provide structure, a sense of safety and security, and breed a familiarity that anchors people together. Eat dinner in the kitchen, as a family, as much as possible. Drive your kids to school daily, and participate in school activities or volunteer programs. Make your children lunch everyday, so your kids know they are important and someone cares about them. Throw in special treats here and there as an extra surprise.

Unique jobs transmit the message that your child is valued and needed.

“You’re the best ice cream scooper in the family.” [talk bubble]

Story telling will help your son understand how special he is to you.

“I remember so clearly the day you were born. I loved you the first time I laid eyes on you!” [talk bubble]

Repetitive sound bites help remind your child of essential messages.

“We’re your family.”

“We’ve got your back!”

“Your family will always be here for you.”

“I will always love you.”

[talk bubble] for each

Amy Sluss, RN, is an author and family-life specialist from Pleasanton, CA. Check out back-to-school parenting kits  at fab2bfem.com/blog