William Clarence Education, London - My child starts at boarding school in the UK in September. How can I help her settle in?

My child starts at boarding school in the UK in September. How can I help her settle in?

Dr. Helen Wright
April 21st 2017

This is an exciting time for you and your child! A UK boarding education is amazing on so many different levels; over the next few years your child will learn so much about herself and how to live with others, all of which will make a huge and satisfying difference to her life. She will grow in confidence and maturity and make friends for life, and this September is just the start of her journey.

Whether you are based in the UK or overseas, when your child moves into boarding school, it is a big step, and you are right to think carefully about how to help make it as smooth as possible. The key is to prepare your child in advance for the experience, building her excitement while helping her to understand the practicalities. A good school will already have done much of this for you, so just spend a little time together over the summer re-reading all the guides and instructions they will have provided, so that your child can visualise being at school and can feel really comfortable with everything. Browse the school’s website with your child to find out answers to any questions you think of, and don’t be afraid to phone the school and ask if there are any queries which your child has. If she feels secure in her knowledge of what will be expected of her, then she will enter into school life with ease.

If you can, arrange for your daughter to meet some of her soon-to-be new friends over the holidays, but avoid making these artificial occasions. Don’t try to force the issue if your child is shy, or if you live too far away, or if you are too busy having a great holiday – she will have plenty of opportunity to meet and make friends in her first few days at school. Meeting outside school is very different from meeting in school, with all the safety nets of routines and shared experiences; your child will have plenty of time to make new friendships once term has started, and it is sometimes easier (and more satisfactory) just to wait.

Above all, make sure that your child knows how excited you are too about her embarking on this new phase of her education. She may seek reassurance from you that you will miss her, so give her oodles of time and unconditional love ... and – really important! - don’t forget to manage your own emotions carefully. You have chosen a boarding school because you know that it will offer your child an amazing education which she is ready to embrace. Knowing this logically, however, does not always translate into emotions, which for parents themselves may well be more turbulent. Your child is growing up, and while this is what we as parents want for our children, it can also be hard for us to watch this happen! Your child will pick up on any conflicting feelings you have, however, and may misinterpret them, so make a real effort to focus on the (wonderful) positives. Enjoy the last few days of summer, and enjoy looking forward together to the start of a new term.

Finally, once the first day has arrived, make sure that you follow the school’s guidance on how to keep in touch with your child – how often, when, and where. Your child’s new school will have vast experience in helping children settle in well, and will have programmes up and running, ready to whisk your child into action and into the heart of what is going on. You need to feel part of this, so don’t hesitate to phone or email at any time to see what is going on, and how your child is settling. Make sure that all your phone calls and the first weekends at home are really positive, focusing on all that your child is learning and doing. Before you know it, your child will be a fully-fledged, happy boarder.

Dr Helen Wright is a former Head of a leading UK public school and is part of the William Clarence Education Advisory Board