Help prepare your child for boarding school

If you have decided to send your child to boarding school, these tips may help to prepare both yourself and your child for the move.

Choosing to send your child to boarding school can be a difficult decision to make.

Why choose boarding school?

Sometimes, attending boarding school is a family tradition and part of the family culture. If this is already strongly ingrained, children often accept this decision more willingly. It is very important for parents to evaluate each child individually, knowing their strengths, aptitudes, and character. Some children do not naturally take to distance from their family and stricter environments. We chat with Kristen Strahlendorf, Educational Psychologist from the Family Tree Therapy Center, for some tips for parents on bridging the distance of boarding school.

The role parents play

Parents play a pivotal role in understanding their child’s needs and helping them to prepare for boarding school ahead of time. If there is already an older sibling or family member that attends the same boarding school, this can comfort them in knowing they know a familiar face. “It’s already difficult attending a new school, while distance can also make this transition further strained”, says Strahlendorf.

Here are ways you can help you and your child transition into the boarding school environment:

Promote a culture of sharing

Boarding schools provide shared facilities and areas. Whether it’s lunch or breakfast in the school dining room, bedrooms and bathrooms. The need for children to learn how to share and work with their peers is key to adapting to this environment while promoting comradeship and brother/sisterhood. Learning how to share will allow your child to form bonds with peers, as this will slowly become their support system away from home. Sharing is not about giving everything up, but rather knowing when to share and when keeping to oneself is okay.

Routine, routine, routine

Adapting to routine is one of the cornerstones of most boarding schools. There is a time for everything. The housemasters/mothers create rules and routines to enforce discipline while running in line with the school’s ethos, values, and morals. This helps children understand their boundaries, and this makes it easy for the house masters/mothers to supervise these pupils. Parents can start preparing their child by forming a strict roster and routine at home when it comes to mealtime, waking up, and day-to-day activities. Parents should also restrict screen time, as some schools may partially or completely limit the use of personal technology devices.

Support your child emotionally

You need to let your child know that you will be there for them at any time no matter the distance or situation. Make sure as parents, when your child calls you to answer – and reassure them that you will see them shortly and unconditionally support them. Boarding school should not be seen as a punishment but rather, in their best interest for their education and the ability to make new life-long friendships given the situation. Parents must also emphasise that their child should let them know immediately if anything inappropriate or unwarranted events happen while at the boarding school. Children should also learn and be familiar with where and how to find help in the event of an emergency situation.

Keep communication channels open

Presence is not about being there physically but through small gestures. A note or a message sent to them can reassure your child of your presence and support. Sending your child their favourite snack or extra pocket money can remind them of your continued support, as they follow their educational journey. Constant communication is key, through the use of any communication medium allowed by the school. As parents, you need to be kept up-to-date with your child’s educational, physical and emotional wellbeing. This can be done through frequent school updates with their housemaster/mother, teacher, or Principal. Attending parent evenings and events over weekends are also a physical sign of support. Free up time for them and these events. “Boarding school may be the best years of your child’s life. Make sure your presence is felt even at a distance,” says Strahlendorf.  

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