New Delhi: The whole concept of the issue pertaining to "How to make the transition to Boarding Schools easier" is cornered on the fulcrum of the inherent question "Why should I send my child to a boarding school". It is integral to involve the child and make him or her a part of the decision to pursue education at a boarding school. Children need to be explained that studying at a residential school is about imbibing a whole new holistic learning model that promises to be engaging and enriching in all areas of life. The young mind entering a whole new world away from his or her parents needs to understand why this experience is beneficial to overall growth.
The experience needs to be explained as a journey of self-discovery. One that would require them to adhere to a daily structured routine; learn to live and grow with students from different walks of life, collaborate with fellow housemates, and build life-long friendships! From networking to conflict resolution, every day at a boarding school is filled with opportunities to learn and imbibe valuable life skills that will hold these children steady even in the strongest storms.
While it's normal for children to feel scared, homesick, lonely, or unsure, parents can be reassured that the schools themselves will do everything they can to help the children through that transition.
Effective communication: Parents need to understand and appreciate that for new bonds to be formed, it is essential for them to step back initially to allow the child space and time to accept his new surrounding and build new friendships. Most reputed schools have certain policies with regard to the frequency of calls and interactions. These are made with the intent to help the child settle down faster in his new abode. Parents must respect these rules as it will also make the child more respectful of the school rules. Most schools allow once-a-week calls between parent and child. The first 48 hours after leaving the child for the first time at a boarding school are crucial and a no-call or text policy for those hours is essential to help the child settle down
Listen to them: Young children, who have left home for the first time are experiencing a myriad of emotions at their new school. They are excited but also apprehensive about the new surroundings. It is important for parents to acknowledge these conflicting emotions and hear them out. It is important to let the children feel heard and connected. This allows them to build the trust and confidence that despite being away from home, nothing has changed the bond they share with their parents - it is still their safe haven.
Homesickness is Natural: It is natural for new admits to miss their familiar surroundings and parents. Parents can help children adjust better by encouraging them to involve themselves in activities ranging from sports, adventure, student clubs, music, theatre, dance, etc. It is important for parents to also adjust to the new way of life as often it is the parent's anxiety that unwittingly transfers to the child who then finds it harder to settle at the boarding school away from home. However, if the homesickness persists, parents should talk to the concerned mentors, class teachers, housemasters, and if needed even the Dean to understand the root cause and address it.
Follow school procedures for outings and leaves: Respecting school rules is of paramount importance. The child will respect the school and also value his time at home a lot more if he is made to follow the schedule created by the school for outings and leaves. The uniform approach allows the child to settle better at the boarding school. Frequent gaps and unplanned trips home create a feeling of being unsettled and don't allow the child to feel like he or she belongs at the school. The initial days of staying connected at school with the teachers and students are important to cement the child's relationship with the boarding school.
Have Faith: Trust in the school is paramount. A successful boarding education requires teachers and parents to be equal partners in the child's overall growth. The faculty often becomes the de-facto family for the children while at school. Hence it is important for parents and teachers to be on the same page. Children will fall sick, get injured while playing, and even have those low moments when things don't go their way. As parents, it is important to remember that a child could face the same situation at home and trust that the school faculty would also follow the necessary safety procedures and put in the best efforts to ensure the complete wellness of every child. It is important for parents to understand, acknowledge and appreciate that a boarding school maintains a certain decorum, offers a holistic education, and expects a certain discipline from both the child and the parent in order for the child to make the most of his or her experience at the boarding school.
Building a home away from home is not an easy feat for the child, the parent, or the boarding school. However, if the above suggestions are followed, it definitely eases the initial period of anxiety and discomfort and allows the child to transition from being home-sick to being well-adjusted at his or her new abode. It is no surprise that children who enter the school nervous and apprehensive about leaving their parents are often left in tears as they bid goodbye to the institution that eventually becomes a second home to them.