So, you have decided that boarding school is the best option for your child’s education. Congratulations! Many students excel because of their time at boarding school, and your child has the chance to join a long list of successful boarding school attendees who have gone on and made a success out of their lives. Now, get ready for the phone calls. Your child is likely to start calling with a list of woes… from teachers “not understanding” to mean classmates, as homesickness sets in, your child will likely begin to call and complain. The good news is that although homesickness is a fairly common side effect of going to boarding school, most kids survive it just fine. Here are a few tips to help your child get through those tough days and thrive at his new environment.
Words from Experts
Boarding school staff are no strangers to dealing with homesick kids. An article on the online version of the Telegraph quotes a number of boarding school headmasters on the subject of homesickness. The headmaster of Ashdown House in Sussex, Dominic Floyd admits that most children that come from loving homes are going to face homesickness. He goes on to say that it is usually a pretty quick adjustment. Another headmaster said that the kids face homesickness most frequently during times that they are exceptionally tired, or they have just talked to parents on the phone (1). Even though these statements are coming from headmasters in the U.K., kids around the world face the same situations.
One of the first things to realize as a parent is that your child’s school is aware of the homesickness problem, and they are prepared to deal with. Many schools have a specific policy on how to deal with homesickness, just like they have policies for other situations from bullying to study problems. Additionally, schools take steps to engage students in order to avoid setting them up for homesickness. From evening activities, to “family” times in a staff members home, staff members are skilled in making your child feel at home in their home away from home. And if that means taking the time for a quick hug and a cup of hot chocolate, they’ll make sure it happens.
- Regardless of the preparedness of the school, there will still be times that your child will feel homesick. Of course, as a parent, you want to do your best to help make the transition as easy as possible, so here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Realize it is Normal – according to studies, 71% to 76% of boarding school students feel homesick during the first year (2). If your child is one of them, realize that it does not mean she is a failure and will not make it. Their homesickness is a tribute to your love as a parent, and they are completely normal for feeling it. Be confident that she will make it.
- Limit Contact – this may be a tough one, but it is important not to “hover” too much into your child’s life, especially during the first few weeks. He needs to be able to form relationships and learn dependencies at school, rather than falling back on his parents. While it is still okay to be in contact some, many people agree it is important to schedule times that are not too frequent.
- Encourage Staff Interaction – one of the big things you can do as a parent is to encourage your child to go to the staff for interaction. This expresses your confidence in the school, as well as in your child’s ability to work through it.
- Listen to House Parents – they have dealt with a lot of homesick students. Your child’s houseparent will be keeping an eye on how the students are adjusting and can bring a dose of reality after you get off the phone with a sobbing child.
- Establish Routine – it is important for your child to know when she will see you next. Make a plan to count off the days. Give her something look forward to, and encourage her to throw herself into her studies in the meantime so she will be ready when the time comes.
- Encourage Activities – your child needs to put himself into school activities. Staying busy will keep his mind off home and excited about the present.
Countless children not only survive the boarding school scene every year, but actually thrive. Your child will likely learn to love their school experience. A little bit of patience coupled with a huge dose of caring wisdom will go a long way toward making their boarding school experience one of their best childhood memories.