Making the choice to send your child to boarding school is often a very difficult and upsetting decision for parents, but one made with their best interests at heart. The experiences gained and time spent living independently are so beneficial and rewarding for children, giving them skills to carry with them for life.
The move into boarding can bring about feelings of homesickness for children as they settle into their new surroundings and ‘home’. This is completely normal and will naturally lessen over time. As a parent, you want to do everything possible to stop this from happening but doing too much can make homesickness worse. You need to give your child the time and independence to adapt to their new lifestyle, develop personally and make relationships.
Here are some tips on how to cure homesickness for boarders:
This may come as a surprise but contacting your child constantly or vice versa actually exacerbates the problem of homesickness. This can be very difficult for both parties but is very important, especially in the early stages. Constant reminders of home can cause boarders to feel unsettled or as if they are missing out, making it harder for them to adjust. Agree a regular amount of contact like a 15-minute phone call every other day and a few emails or texts to check in with your child. Keep the conversation light and positive, and focus on what they have been up to, not academic pressures.
Post a care package
Although we don’t often post things anymore, as a Boarder, receiving a care package from home can be a treasured surprise. Fill it with things your child loves and misses, especially food, such as their favourite treats or homemade snacks; boarders often miss their unlimited access to mum’s kitchen and goodies. Include hand written notes or letters, photographs, books, personal supplies or anything else you think they would appreciate. It lets your child know you are thinking of them and is a small reminder of home.
Boarders often relish the opportunity to show their family around their new environment and introduce them to their school friends. However, unexpected visits or frequent visits can be very disruptive. Use this time to catch up with your child and treat them to things they might not have the opportunity to do regularly, such as going for a meal or a shopping trip.
Encourage your son to make friends and join many recreational groups to get to know others and keep him busy.
Allow your child to invite their friends to visit during the holidays to get to know them and to join both environments. Let them do the same and visit their friends, even if it means missing out on some quality time at home with your child.
Embrace the experience
It’s important not to adorn your child’s walls with photographs and memorabilia of home, especially in the first few terms. This will only give them constant reminders of home and put homesickness at the forefront of their mind. Instead put up posters and images of their interests and focus on providing things they can enjoy in their new surroundings with friends, such as board games or sports equipment. Sending your child some extra pocket money now and then is a great treat for boarders allowing them to do something a little special with their friends.
Most schools combat homesickness by keeping students so busy and entertained, they hardly have time to notice they are homesick. At Guildford Grammar School, we have a strong pastoral support system in place to offer our boarders a home away from home. There are an endless number of people on hand that boarders can lean on, such as the Heads of the Boarding Houses, Year Coordinators, Heads of House, Medical Centre staff, Mentors, School Chaplains, School Councillors, Student Leaders, Prefects and of course their peers.
To encourage our boarders to form strong friendships with their peers the first weekend in boarding is a closed weekend, where we coordinate a program of activities that encourages teamwork and allows the students an opportunity to get to know one another and start the important journey of friendships that will see them through their years in boarding.
Our boarders are certainly kept busy and entertained, with plenty of opportunities to get out and about, try new things and meet new people. Some of the activities scheduled for Term 1 include ice skating, Fremantle markets, socials with other schools, trips to the movies, a quiz night, picnics on the beach, dragon boat racing and indoor lazer tag, to name a few!
Moving away from home to boarding school is a huge adjustment for your child and involves a rollercoaster of emotions. As a parent, fight your natural instincts to problem-solve for your child and ‘over-parent’. Instead give them the freedom and space to find their feet, solve problems themselves and mature in a new environment. Home will always be where their heart is.
Download our Boarding Handbook and learn how we keep our boarders safe, happy and cared for at Guildford Grammar School, with a wide range of recreation activities, social events and a supportive pastoral care program.
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