Date Posted: 15th August
Categories: Boarding School
Choosing a boarding school for your child’s education is not an easy decision, yet the opportunities it brings are plentiful. Your child may be excited or anxious about their big adventure, and you will feel a mix of emotions too. The most important role a parent plays at this stage is supporting their child with settling in at boarding school. Helping your child settle into their new surroundings makes their experience feel more positive, and very quickly, they’ll not be worrying about being away from home or the changes they’re experiencing. Let’s first look at how to prepare your child for boarding school before discussing other important topics, including missing home while your child is at their new school.
Once you have chosen a boarding school and your child knows boarding is a matter of just a few months or even weeks away, you have this time to help prepare them. Your child may be experiencing many different emotions, and this is a huge change for them, the best ways to support them include:
Communication is key to helping your child manage their feelings about boarding. Being away from home can create anxiety as well as excitementnd talking it all through as often as they want will help them manage their emotions more effectively. You could make lists of all the things they want to do and what they’re looking forward to when they get there. You could also talk through any concerns and help plan strategies and coping mechanisms so they are able to thrive once they’ve moved into their dorm.
If you’ve been a boarder yourself then tell your child all about your best experiences. If not, be as positive and bright as possible. This is a fantastic opportunity for your child to learn, grow and experience amazing things which they may not have been able to at home. Children are resilient and adaptable so if you present the change positively they’ll settle in much more quickly.
Rather than letting your child dwell on their worries, put plans in action. Get your shopping trips booked in to get things that will make their dorm or room feel more like home, organise trips with dorm mates if you have their details from taster days and plan fun things for the weeks you have before boarding school begins. Keeping your child occupied stops them from spending too much time worrying and overthinking the big move.
At boarding school your child will have to take responsibility for themselves and their belongings. Get them in the right mindset for this by giving them similar tasks at home. Let them pack and tick off all their luggage items before you go and get them practicing daily essentials like making their bed and folding their clothes.
The boarding school you choose should be the right environment for your child to thrive. This will, of course, differ from child to child, but you can think closely about the characteristics you want for your child. For example, you should consider whether your child is more suited to a large or small school. If they are confident and self-assured, a larger school may suit them better.
Boarding schools also offer varying levels of pastoral care and when it comes to your child settling in, it is vital to ensure the level is in line with your expectations. Pastoral care should go hand in hand with the community feel of a school. The best boarding schools have a family-like atmosphere as well as an educational focus feel. Your child should feel comfortable, secure and supported.
Another consideration is, of course, academic opportunity. Choose a school suitable for your child’s experience and academic level. If you opt for a highly academic school that sees your child struggling, then they’ll be unhappy, and that’s the last thing you want.
Boarding schools offer extensive extracurricular activities, so if your child has a particular passion or skill, you should explore the school’s opportunities to practice this. Some schools have a specialism in which you may want your child to excel, so that may also be a consideration when choosing the right boarding school.
The ultimate aim in choosing any school is to find a supportive environment where your child can thrive. With boarding schools, you have the added requirement of them being responsible for your children 24/7 during term-time.
You may be concerned your relationship with your child will change when they begin boarding school. This doesn’t have to be the case. You can use the situation to build stronger bonds and create a wonderful relationship with your child despite them not being at home. Consider these effective ways of maintaining your strong family bonds:
Keeping your children at the same boarding school will allow their bond to thrive. At Wycliffe, younger siblings at prep and older siblings in senior schools have plenty of opportunities to meet up, from older siblings attending film nights in Prep boarding house, to Sunday breakfasts,
While you can’t be phoning your child every five minutes, open channels of communication certainly help to ease any heartache or disconnection. With the internet, it is easy to connect with your child, and they will also be able to phone home regularly. Letter writing is sometimes considered a bit of a lost art, but it’s a wonderful way of keeping up to date with your young boarder and hearing all about their school experiences too.
Family traditions become even more valuable when your children are at home with you less. Building new traditions together gives your boarder something to look forward to when they come home. Maybe you can plan a special film night or meal out on their first night home from school each time or organise a family garden party when school breaks up for the summer.
Many boarders go home for the weekends or exeats, so be sure to make the most of this time. Get the whole family together, ensure siblings are home to enjoy their visits and make them a real relaxing break from school.
Your child now has a brand new family at their boarding school and getting to know them and working collaboratively with them helps to give your child a stronger sense of home and belonging. Keep in contact with their tutor, housemaster and anybody else who can keep you updated on their progress. You can also share anything you hear back with your child, so they know you’re keeping an eye on them from afar.
Missing home is normal and completely natural. It can be upsetting, but you can help your child through it. Remember, their feelings are valid, and you should respect them. Telling your child, they’re being silly or to stop crying doesn’t help them cope with the situation. Let them know their feelings are normal and valid, and you’re here to support them.
Similarly, you need to reinforce they can communicate with you when they need to. Homesickness can lead to a lack of enthusiasm in activities and malaise in school life, so encourage your child to join clubs, get involved and become part of the school community. Once they do, the homesickness will quickly fade.
Your child moving away will impact you too. It’s natural to be sad, worried or anxious about your child and accepting these emotions and validating them is important too. Making sure you regularly check in with your child as well as their support team will help you to manage your emotions and realise your child is flourishing so you can relax a little.
Wycliffe wants all of our children to be happy and settled in school. We welcome all new UK and international boarders warmly and work with parents and families to help them settle in. Our settling-in process includes:
We give all potential boarders the chance to taste Wycliffe life before joining for their first term. Our taster days give pupils a chance to get a real-life experience of our school and everything it offers. Our taster stays pair your child with a guardian, another pupil from their year group with similar interests. Their guardian will look out for them during their stay as they get a chance to experience school life, including a night’s boarding. We find almost all pupils are even more enthusiastic about joining us after their taster experience.
We ensure all our new boarders are teamed up with a buddy in boarding from their year group. They will share a room with someone from their year group to help them settle in. This helps them to quickly immerse themselves in our Wycliffe community and feel right at home. Our buddy system ensures everyone has someone to turn to and ask those questions they may not be comfortable asking tutors.
We pride ourselves on our exceptional pastoral care across all year groups. Pupil wellbeing is at the heart of all our practices, and we are dedicated to the mental and physical wellbeing of our pupils, as well as their academic success. All pupils are part of a small tutor group, giving their tutor the chance to get to know them and their parents well. Our house parents are also a constant support for our pupils and will help in any way they can to help your child settle in well. They maintain regular and ongoing contact with parents and guardians.
Our extracurricular timetable includes many well being and health-promoting opportunities. Pupils can get involved in Pilates, Zumba, Cooking, Yoga, specific lessons on Life Skills (including mental health), as well as lots and lots of sporting activities.
New boarders are quickly immersed into Wycliffe’s vibrant and diverse boarding community every year. We’d love for you and your child to find out more about what is on offer at our school, and you can explore our boarding experience here.