Childhood Core Need: Belonging

Updated: Apr 1


For babies and toddlers, belonging is synonymous with survival. Rejection in its most extreme form can be a death sentence. Yet even as we grow, belonging remains a key need for humans. Thousands of years ago, being rejected by your peer group could leave you exposed to the elements, reduce your chance of finding food, and enhance your risk of being attacked by wild animals. Thus, even from a survival perspective, our whole being is geared toward belonging.


Feeling like they are part of a caring family or community gives children a sense of safety as they grow and develop. When their need of belonging is not met, children may feel unloved, unsafe, and rejected. This can result in anxiety, loneliness, sadness, hopelessness, abandonment; and they seek the fault for their rejection in themselves, forming a belief that maybe something is wrong with them.



So what can we do as adults to help to fulfil the need for belonging in our children? Here are a few ideas:

· Assure children they are valued and accepted for who they are

· Openly and safely speak about strengths and weaknesses with children in an age-appropriate way; both our own and theirs

· Sharing vulnerability about human weaknesses, including our own, can show our children that it is okay to be human and not perfect

· When dealing with behavioural issues, highlight that it is the behaviour that is the problem, not the person (i.e. “your behaviour is bad”; not “you are bad”)

· Encourage children to develop friendships in their communities and practice their social skills

· Model empathy, support and healthy boundary setting in interpersonal relationships to show children how people help to meet each other’s needs in a healthy way while also getting their own needs met.


Fulfilling our children’s need for belonging can help to strengthen their confidence in themselves and their compassion for others. Importantly, it increases a sense of safety and support, fosters healthy relationships within communities and enhances individual wellbeing.


The need for belonging remains relevant for us as adults. In particular, if we did not have this need met as children, we may struggle with some of our insecurities that developed along the way. This may impact our relationships and we may have greater difficulty becoming part of a close and trusted community in adulthood. However, regardless of our childhood, with the right tools, we are able to meet this need in adulthood without letting the past control us. The way we would treat children now, is the way we can also nurture our own inner child.


To find out more about how to help your children feel like they belong or to successfully meet your own need of belonging, book a consultation with Dr. Terrighena on (852) 2715 4577 or e.terrighena@mind-balance.org.

Dr Esslin Terrighena - Psychologist in Hong Kong

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