As we begin the month of Belonging as our theme for October, here is an idea for a monthly mantra that you can use with your children. Use it as a reminder that helps us re-focus and steady ourselves and our kids as we navigate through life’s challenges and opportunities. Write it on sticky notes to put in your car, on kitchen cabinet fronts, in lunch boxes, on computer screens and, of course, on your family message board. Share it out loud at home and out in the world, where and whenever the need arises.
October’s Mantra: “You belong here.”
Maya Angelou said, in a 1973 interview, “You are only free when you realize you belong no place–you belong every place–no place at all…More and more, I belong to myself.” Our mantra this month attempts to help our children, and remind ourselves, to walk in our belonging.
The average adult moves about 11 times in their lifetime, sometimes for opportunity or other circumstance, but also from a sense of restlessness. The temptation to cut ties and move on is strong, at every age. It comes from a sense of not belonging, of not feeling safe, included, accepted, known, celebrated, cherished, loved. Connection with others is crucial to our wellbeing, and yet, we cannot look to others to fulfill our sense of self. That is the paradox of belonging no place / every place, of belonging to all humankind / to self.
So, when your child comes to you, out-of-sorts, with something along the lines of, “I wish we lived in a different neighborhood,” or “Can we move so I can go to a different school?” Remind them with this mantra–putting emphasis on the word belong–that they carry the deepest sense of belonging wherever they are, because they are true to self.
The mantra might also come in handy when our children–or we, as caregivers–are overcome with feelings that make us want to run away from ourselves–stress, loneliness, shame. Saying to one’s self, in that fragile moment, “I belong here,” reminds us of the greater truth that even in our most difficult experiences, there is belonging to found sitting with those hard feelings rather than running away from them. Embracing the hard times and allowing ourselves to belong to them often allows us to receive a lesson or grow.