As an expat parent, how can I help my child prepare for boarding school?
With the difficult decision of deciding which UK school will be right for your child, it is easy to forget that boarding itself will be a new experience for your child. Here are some tips to help your child settle quickly into boarding life.
Get them comfortable
If your current school offers the opportunity for flexi-boarding, maybe choose to encourage your child to do that instead of getting a babysitter. This will get your child gradually used to the idea of boarding and that it can be fun.
Get yourself comfortable
Attend the new parent open days at the new school, which will probably take place in June of the summer term, before they begin at the school in the Autumn. It is far easier to settle both your child’s nerves and yours, if they have already met a few peers and you have had some encouraging conversations with other parents and teachers alike.
Who you know…
Any familiar face for your child will be very comforting once they are away from the family nest. So, find out if any other children from your child’s school will also be going to the new school you have chosen and invite that child over a few times during summer. Once away from home, your child will appreciate a friend to call on for support or company in the early days before new friendships have been established.
In the know
In each school the social acceptance handbook is different! Find out from other parents what is ‘cool’ at the school your child is going too. A pristine uniform? Or interest in sports?
It can be very upsetting for your child to get into trouble in their first couple of weeks at a new school. No child likes to be singled out. This type of unsettlement will be very distressing for them in a new environment with no nest to escape too. Be as thorough as possible to ensure they have everything from their school kit list.
Communication is key
Talk to your child about how they might feel when they are first away from home, and discuss how you may both deal with it. Make sure your child also knows and is comfortable with which teachers they will be able talk to if they are feeling a bit down.
Over the summer holidays talk to your child about their next school, get them excited about all the new activities and opportunities available to them. Look at the school’s website and joining pack together as this will really help them to become interested in the culture of the school once they are there.
Getting lost on the school campus when trying to find a lesson room can quickly cause homesickness. Try to get around this by looking at the school site plan and helping your child to identify which routes and where they need to go to get to certain lessons and extracurricular activities.
Standing on their own two feet
Help your child prepare for their new life at boarding school by providing them experiences of being independent. Let them take the bus into the local shops alone or meet up with their friends. Encourage them to understand the importance of being on-time and keeping to time deadlines.
Try to take any chance to familiarise yourself with the schools’ specific focus and pastoral care, something that is vitally important for children who have parents overseas. Attend events where you can meet the people who will be caring for and teaching your child will help ease any worries you may have and this, in turn, will help you prepare your child for their next adventure.
Choosing the right school for your child is one of the hardest decisions you’ll make as an expat parent when moving abroad. There are many education options around for expats, and so much depends on your individual family set-up and child that there is no ‘one-school-fits-all’ solution. Each child is different and each country’s school system is different, even within the ‘generic’ international schools. Also, families differ in their requirements and aspirations, and even relocations vary greatly. What worked well for you all in one country won’t necessarily be replicated in your next move.
It’s easy to get very stressed at this point. Don’t panic! I’ve put together this book to help you kick-start your search for the best type of school for your child. Now available on your local Amazon.
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