If you have begun to think about sending your son or daughter to boarding school, I offer the following suggestions and guidance from one parent to another. Transferring from a public high school to a boarding school is a big deal for us grownups. But it is an even bigger deal for your child. Why? Because you literally are uprooting her from those familiar surroundings and routines, she has known ever since birth. While I understand that every young person views change differently, the reality is that going off to boarding school is a very big change. With that in mind, let's you and I look at some of the things we can do to facilitate this change.
Familiarize your child with what's involved.
You can familiarize your child with boarding school by involving her in the process from the beginning. In other words, don't present the idea as though the deal is done. If your child thinks that going off to boarding school is her idea, then you are off to a great start. The important thing to understand is that your child's viewpoint will be different from yours. She will focus on the immediate change to her familiar routine. She will have strong feelings about leaving home and her family and friends. She won't be thinking long-term or about the benefits which a boarding school education can provide her. I advise you to engage an experienced educational consultant right from the beginning of your boarding school search process. The consultant's expertise will assure you that the schools to which you apply are indeed good fits with your needs and requirements. After all, you want your child to be happy in her new school.
This video explains what an educational consultant is.
Allay her fears
We parents understand that adolescents can and will make mountains out of molehills. So, listen and let her know that you are listening. Offer advice and if she doesn't want to receive your very sound advice, then find a trusted family member or friend to offer that advice. Remember that a prophet is without honor in his own country, meaning that your message may be right, but your daughter is not receiving it. She will listen to somebody else whom she considers is unbiased.
She will be less anxious about going off to boarding school if you can show her things that will please her, such as having her own horse at school or a fine Natatorium in which to swim. If she takes music lessons, arrange a meeting with her new teacher. Take her to a concert to hear her new instructor perform or give her a recording of the new teacher. Besides CDs, many young performers have their music on Spotify and SoundCloud. Find the music and share the links with your child.
Allay any health concerns before they become real concerns. For example, if she takes medications or has a chronic ailment, explain how she will have a health professional to turn to on-campus 24/7. Being able to walk to the nurse's office anytime she wants should be a great comfort to her. Essentially what you want to do is eliminate as many of your child's concerns as you can. Once you do that, all she has to do is focus on her schoolwork and her new friends. You can make the transition from public to boarding school a smooth process for her with some thought and care in anticipating her concerns.
This video offers tips for talking with your teenager.
Accentuate the positive.
Easing a child out of the nest is a process. Take your time. Think through what you will do and say to make your child comfortable with leaving home. After all, that is all she has known for the past fourteen or fifteen years. She has a routine. She has family and friends. She probably has had the same classmates for the last ten or twelve years. And now you want to uproot her from everything she knows and loves?
I think you can see where I am going with this process. You must start several years in advance. Accentuate the positive aspects of a residential school. Start with things she really enjoys, such as a sport or an activity. As I mentioned before, if she is a rider, take her to an equestrian event at a boarding school. Let the admissions staff know in advance so that they can surprise her with a tour of the stables and the rest of the school facilities. Gradually she will become comfortable with the idea of leaving home and going to a residential school. Boarding schools have so much to offer their students. But you have to take the lead and show her over a period of a year or so what those advantages for her are.
Boarding school athletic programs offer a wide variety of sports with superb facilities to match. Boarding schools can do so thanks to the generosity of their alumni who appreciate what their schools have done for them. Take her to a game. Expose her to the richness of boarding school athletic programs most of which use their teachers as coaches.
The same approach applies to extracurricular activities. Boarding schools offer dozens of activities that are supervised by the teachers. Public schools tend to cut back on athletics and extracurricular activities due to financial constraints. Boarding schools tend to do the opposite. They will enhance their existing programs and even add new ones as market conditions warrant. Fitness facilities are an example of that approach.
Look to the future.
Finally, convince her that her classmates at boarding school are all there to learn. Most of them want to excel. She won't have to endure social ostracization and cliques. A boarding school is a much more homogenous community by design. When you have an opening, explain how important it is to have a solid foundation for her adult life. The academics, sports, extracurricular activities, and individual attention which she will receive in a boarding school will help her achieve her full potential. Boarding schools educate the whole child. They are much more than academics.
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