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7 Tips for A Smooth Transition to Boarding School
This coming week will be filled with excitement as new students move onto boarding school campuses to begin their next adventure. This moment is the culmination of months of hard work, planning, and dreaming. It also represents a milestone of growing up as students separate from their families to embrace their growing independence. Not surprisingly, the first drop-off can be a jumble of emotions. Here are some tips to help you and your boarding school student make a smooth transition.
- Make a plan for when and how you and your child will communicate. Discuss this in advance, rather than leaving things open-ended, with everyone wondering what constitutes too little or too much contact. Avoid texting or calling for the first 48 hours. A separation needs to happen for students to be successful, and they won’t truly engage in their new schools if they are still focused on home. Also don’t expect a lot of communication in the first couple of weeks in general. Schools schedule lots of activities to immerse students in the campus experience right away. As students settle in, communication usually becomes more routine. Of course, calls and texts will occur spontaneously, but also having regularly scheduled times to connect balances expectations and brings peace of mind to everyone.
- Be prepared for homesickness—or the lack of it. Missing the familiarity of home and having loved ones nearby may happen at the beginning, or even months into the year. These feelings are expected and very normal. Support your student by listening and lending them the confidence you have in their capabilities. Also bolster yourself for the possibility that your boarding school student does not express any such feelings. This experience is also very normal as students enjoy the myriad of new opportunities surrounding them.
- Make a list of contact information. In addition to teachers and coaches, your student will interact with a variety of adult mentors, including advisors, dorm parents, and deans—and sometimes one person plays multiple roles. Every boarding school also has a health center (you might check in before leaving campus) with designated staff to help students manage physical and mental health. Understand how your child’s school handles issues relating to academics or student life outside the classroom, and know whom to reach for different topics. Do your best to get specific contact information for the advisor, the dorm parent and the Dean of Students or Residential Life.
- Listen with perspective. Modern technology makes it incredibly easy for students to reach out in the heat of the moment if they are feeling strong emotions around a situation. Remember that you hear only your student’s perspective, and there may be other sides to any story. Plus, many things that blow up can blow over just as quickly.
- Keep your child at school until Parents Weekend, which is usually in mid-October. The timeline for building new friendship circles is different for each student, but your student will find the most opportunities to bond by staying at school on the weekends.
- Fully understand off-campus permission procedures. Knowing whether your student is on campus or not is a critical safety priority that schools take seriously. Even if your student will be with you for the weekend, completing the formal sign-out process is important. At many schools, you may also place a permission on file for your student to leave campus to walk into a nearby town or to spend the weekend with other student families. Understand the parameters and know that you can add these permissions later as you grow increasingly comfortable with your child’s independence.
- Most importantly, have faith. It can be challenging to send your child off to boarding school. It is also an amazing growth opportunity. Giving your child space to make their way into this new life is cause for celebration. At The Bertram Group, we are all cheering for you and your child as you embark on this exciting journey.
Audrey Noyes Ludemann helps families seek independent school education, including day schools and boarding schools, from elementary to secondary grades. She also is an invaluable resource for addressing different learning styles—serving families whose students are gifted and/or have moderate learning differences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kristen J. Naspo is a partner with The Bertram Group, based in Connecticut. She provides services for domestic and international boarding school candidates and those seeking therapeutic school placements. She can be reached at email@example.com