Deciding to send your child to boarding school is a tough decision. Letting go as a parent is expected when they go off to college or get married, but sending them to boarding school can be just as much of a challenge. While each child’s experience will be a little different, there are a few things most students at boarding school experience, and by default, most parents experience as well. Knowing what to expect ahead of time can help you be prepared to help your child navigate those first few weeks and months away from home.
Homesickness as a Fact of Life
Be prepared for the fact that your child will most likely face homesickness. This is at the top of our list of expectations for a reason. As a parent, you will be facing emotions of your own as your deal with your child being away, and it is important that you are adequately prepared for those distressing phone calls home you are likely to receive. And although those calls may tug at your heart strings, realize that your student will learn to survive and even thrive on their own. Boarding school staff are experienced with guiding grieving students through the waters of living away from home.
Maturity and Responsibility are Side-Effects
Read the stories of boarding school graduates, and you are likely to hear a recurring theme: “growing up” and learning to be responsible are two of the best things that happened to them at boarding school. One boarding school graduate reflected on her days at boarding school on her blog. She ruefully remarked about her own daughter’s messy room and lack of study habits before elaborating on the things she learned in her boarding school experience. On the top of her list? Getting up on time, learning to be tidy, money management, and learning to manage schedules: all things most teenagers could use some extra help with.
These qualities rank at the top of countless lists describing the benefits of boarding schools. Face it: boarding school staff have a much better success rate of getting students to act responsibility than parents. Boarding school graduates go on to be some of the most responsible young people around.
Expect to Get Ignored
As your child gets involved in school life, prepare yourself to have some unanswered emails and missed phone calls. It is important to stay in contact with your child, but at the same time, realize that he needs to build a strong relationship base at school. As his confidence increases, phone calls and emails will likely become less frequent. This does not automatically mean he is getting in trouble and has something to hide. It just means he needs to learn how to balance new relationships without neglecting the meaningful ones at home. Keep emailing. Do not wait for a “fair” exchange: one email for another. Keep him informed about what is happening at home. Keep up with his school news from the website or parent newsletters, then ask him about various activities. Show your interest without deriding him for lack of contact. Likely he will come around.
Don’t Expect a Genius
Just because you send your child to boarding school does not necessarily mean she will be the top pupil or get into the top college on your list. Your child’s gifts and talents will be nurtured at boarding school, and she needs room to thrive at what she is good at and is interested in. Heavy expectations at home can cause fear of failure and intimidation. Rejoice with her accomplishments, comfort her during hard times, be her greatest cheerleader and she will become the best that she can be.