Students’ well-being is not just about feeling happy and achieving good grades in school, but also about being engaged with life and with other people. The social aspect of students’ wellbeing captures both the quantity and the quality of students’ social networks. People with trustworthy connections – a valuable social support network – can be protected from loneliness, and physical and mental health problems.
A sense of belonging is defined as feeling accepted and liked by the rest of the group, feeling connected to others and feeling like a member of a community. Human beings in general, and teenagers in particular, desire strong social ties and quality relationships. Students spend most of their time at school. Thus, students who feel that they are part of and are accepted by a school community report that their life has more meaning. They are more likely to be healthy, to perform higher academically and to be more motivated in school. They are also less likely to engage in risky behaviours, such as substance abuse and truancy. Feeling a sense of belonging is particularly important for immigrant and refugee students and can contribute to their well-being in host communities.
Many immigrant and refugee students face unique challenges, and they may have distinct social emotional needs. For example, some students may have experienced trauma from fleeing war-torn countries or were separated from their family. At the same, they are negotiating new roles and identities in an unfamiliar cultural context; this adjustment to a new environment can take a long time.
To ensure that immigrant and refugee students not only adjust but thrive academically, socially and emotionally, school leaders, teachers and other school staff can offer a variety of strategies and supports to develop the students’ skills in the classroom, school and community. For example, the social and emotional education of children may be provided through a variety of measures such as classroom instruction, extracurricular activities, a supportive school climate and involvement in community service.
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