You’ve done your research and decided that boarding school is the best choice for your family. Now comes the hard part: Convincing your teenager to get on board with the idea of boarding school.
Will your teen love the idea of moving miles away from his friends, family, and routine? Probably not at first. Change is hard for everyone, including you. But you know that boarding school would be an excellent opportunity for your teen and you don’t want them to miss out.
So, how do you tackle that uncomfortable conversation? How do you help your teen feel excited about this new adventure?
If you’re not sure what to say, you’ve come to the right place. Below, we’ll share tips on how to help your child get comfortable with the idea of boarding school.
Resolve Your Own Feelings About Boarding School
Before you can help your teen get comfortable with the idea of boarding school, you need to make peace with it yourself. It can be a strain on the heartstrings when you send your child to live somewhere else—no matter what age and no matter how wonderful the opportunity. Ask any parent who’s moved their child into a college dorm while holding back the tears. The only difference between them and you is that you’re doing it just a bit earlier.
Before you present the idea of boarding school to your teen, resolve your own feelings about it. Otherwise, your teen will pick up on your feelings and potentially act them out.
Take your time to learn about boarding school, especially from the parent’s point of view. If you have any friends who’ve enrolled their children in boarding school, ask them about their experience. Don’t know anyone personally? Ask the school if they have any parents as references that you can call. Learn what to expect from others who’ve been where you are now.
Once you know all of the benefits of boarding school, you’ll be in a better position to help your teen fall in love with the idea.
Lay the Groundwork for Boarding School
One great way to get your teen on board with the idea is to appeal to your teen’s sense of reason. If they have ownership in the decision to enroll in boarding school, it’ll make the transition a lot easier.
Start by discussing their school options for the upcoming year. Share the pros and cons of each option.
Have an honest discussion about why you favor boarding school, but be cautious with your tone. You don’t want your teen to feel like they have no choice in the matter (even if you’ve already decided on boarding school). Instead, your teen should feel like they have a say, too.
If you know that your teen wants to pursue a career in the arts, you can campaign your chosen school’s fine art program. If your teen needs extra help in their academics, you can discuss how boarding school has a smaller student to teacher ratio.
Don’t force your teen to accept the idea right away. Give them a few days to come around and be available when the questions come.
Focus on the Positive
When you do speak about boarding school with your teen, keep a positive tone. Don’t make boarding school seem like a negative thing. Sure, you won’t like living apart from your teen—no one does—but the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.
There’s something for everyone to love about boarding school, from the excellent education to the beautiful campuses to the lifelong friendships that are forged.
Figure out what matters the most to your teen. And make sure they know that boarding school is not a punishment but rather an excellent way to start off one’s young adulthood.
Work Through Your Teen’s Hesitation
Your teen will have moments of fear. That’s only natural. Don’t be quick to dismiss their fear simply because your mind is set. Talk through that fear so that your teen can address everything that’s bothering them. You don’t want your teen to leave for boarding school with unresolved angst. Doing so could affect their initial performance in school.
It’s also normal for your teen to alternate between moments of excitement and trepidation. Your teen may look forward to independence but feel uncomfortable with the prospect of making new friends.
Be sure to address every fear that your teen has about boarding school or leaving home—even if you have to have this talk more than once.
Get Prepared as Soon as Possible
Immediately after your teen gets comfortable with the idea of attending boarding school, get ready for the move. This can help to cement the decision in both of your minds.
Also, preparing together is a shared experience that can help you bond before it’s time for your teen to leave.
The best way to transition to boarding school is to prepare yourself and your teen for the move ahead of time. Figure out what your teen will need to do, pack, and bring. Shop together for linen, toiletries, snacks, and other necessities.
Visit the Campus With Your Teen
If you haven’t already, a visit to your chosen boarding school with your teen can put their mind at ease. Once they see the school grounds, the prospect of living there will seem a lot less foreign or intimidating.
Go on a scheduled tour and meet with key figures, such as the residential staff, the teachers, and the students. Fellow students, in particular, can help your teen feel good about the idea of boarding school. One’s own peer group is a powerful persuader. If you have a chance to meet with a student at the boarding school (this is usually possible during official tours), be sure to have a list of questions to ask.
Explore the School Details Together
In addition to doing a school tour, here’s another activity to do with your teen: Check out the school’s website. Learn more about the school together. Check out information on the student experience, peruse the school’s calendar and events page, and read about any extracurricular activities that the school offers.
If you’ve already received your welcome packet from the school, study the campus map. Figure out where all of your teen’s activities are and map out a path from point A to point B.
This simple act of learning more about the school can help your teen gain confidence and feel more comfortable with living away from home.
Go Over Your Teen’s Weekly Schedule
Another way to make your teen feel comfortable with the idea of boarding school is to go over their daily and weekly schedules. Discuss what they’ll do each day, including on the weekends if they’re not returning home.
It’s also a good idea for your teen to start adhering to a similar sleep schedule before arriving at boarding school. In the weeks leading up to start of school, implement a consistent bedtime (check with your school to determine when lights are out).
Although your teen will be supervised and have a general guideline for each day, it’s a good idea for you to discuss these details ahead of time and make your own plan for success. Doing so can help your teen feel prepared (and not scared).
It’s never easy to leave home—not now, not four years from now. But by implementing the above tips, you’ll help your teen (and you!) accept and get excited about the prospect of boarding school.