Children’s connections to their parents, peers and the people in their schools and communities play a central role in their growth and development. These connections promote mental health and can act as protective factors against risks experienced during this period. Children who feel connected report greater empathy towards others, higher optimism, and higher self-esteem than children who feel less connected.
Children thriving in this dimension will have at least one close friend, and as they age, will begin to value quality and intimacy over quantity of friendships. Children are more likely to thrive if they have important adults in their lives – be it a family member, an Elder, a teacher, or a coach can make a very powerful difference in a child’s life – who care about them, believe they will be a success and really listen to them.
How the MDI Measures Connectedness
Relationships with Adults
Children who feel connected to an adult they admire (family member, teacher, neighbour) report higher self-esteem and greater life satisfaction and are less likely to engage in risky behaviours. Teachers, principals and school staff are in a unique position to form meaningful bonds with children as they spend a good part of the day together.
A healthy relationship with a parent or caregiver at home is also critical for development, serving as a model for all relationships throughout their lives. Connectedness at home happens with emotional closeness: being available, showing interest in children’s lives, participating in shared activities and spending one-on-one time together.
In Grade 7, the MDI also asks students to choose how they define what makes an adult at school important to them.
Relationships with Peers
Peers begin to have a stronger influence on well-being in the middle years. During this important phase of development, children need to experience a sense of acceptance and feel they have friends they can count on. Spending time with friends helps children develop interpersonal skills like cooperation, emotion management and problem solving. The MDI measures peer belonging and asks questions about friendships and feelings of fitting in.