10 tips for preparing your child for the transition from prep school to senior boarding school
Take advantage of the opportunity, if available, for your child to flexi-board at their current school, perhaps instead of getting a babysitter on a Friday night a few times each term. This will get your child gradually used to the idea of boarding and that it can be fun.
Ensure you attend the new parent open days at the new school, which usually take place in the June of the summer term, before they begin at the school in the autumn. It is far easier to settle in a new environment if your child already has made one or two friends or at least knows who they will be at school with. It will also give you the opportunity to meet other parents with children in the same year.
Find out if anyone else from your child’s current school will also be going on to the new school. Make contact with their parents and invite their child over a few times during the summer. Even if they are not in the same house or class, it will be a familiar face to bump into during break and sit with at lunchtimes, until new friendships have been formed.
Find out from current parents what is ‘cool’. For example, if it is considered cool to be dressed in uniform from the second hand shop, try not to buy shiny new from the school outfitters. This could save you a bit of cash anyway!
Ensure your child has everything that they will require from the school kit list. It can be very upsetting to get into trouble in your child’s first few weeks if they do not have rugby boots, hockey stick, laptop or a calculator.
Talk through in advance with your child the fact that they may feel homesick and agree a strategy as to how you might deal with this together. Discuss which staff at the school are there for them to talk to if they are feeling low and how to find them.
Talk about their new school over the summer holidays. Look at the school website and joining pack together and help them to decide which extra-curricular activities they will take part in and how they will sign up for these. What sports teams will they aim to get into and what musical instrument, drama lessons etc will they engage in?
Look at the map/plan of the school site and help them to learn where everything is. Getting lost on the school campus when trying to find a science lesson for example can be a trigger for homesickness.
Give your child small experiences of independence. 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 you have set, such as when to be home.
Senior boarding schools encourage independence and thinking for oneself so ensure that your child has practiced this before they go away to school for the first time. Encourage them to take responsibility for keeping their bedroom tidy, changing into clean socks, learning how to put on a clean duvet cover and to be responsible for keeping track of their valuables and belongings.