As the long summer break begins to near its end, those children (and their parents) making the transition to a new boarding school will now be looking forward with some mixed anticipation. No doubt there will be some concerns and questions from all parties so how should you, as parents, approach things?
We speak to a group of Bryanston School house parents (HSMs), for their top tips to make the move as smooth as possible for you both.
- If you can, in advance, ask advice from someone you trust who’s had a child at the school. But don’t listen to ‘dinner party’ gossip or opinions about which boarding house is best.
- Trust your child’s new house parent: while they will obviously not know your child as well as you do, they have vast knowledge and experience and will see things in the round.
- Check the school’s dress code: shoes can be especially tricky to get right, partly because there will be a disparity between what you and your child thinks is appropriate.
- Find out about how weekend leave works, and make sure you ask well in advance. There is nothing worse than being the one who’s forgotten to ask. Advanced warning of essential absence for a medical or dental appointment is advised.
- Get used to using the new school systems – ‘parent areas’ on the website or ‘leave’ requests are often different at each school.
- If boarding, dorms will have been thought through as far as possible. They won’t always be perfect, but things balance out in time.
- Tuck: yes, this is still allowed, but arriving with large volumes of sweets, crisps, and fizzy drinks will not go down well.
- Despite what your child might say, you will be allowed to support sports events and other school events. If in doubt, ask your house parent.
- When the first day of term finally comes, don’t arrive too early…or too late. Check the traffic for local events.
- Don’t overstay your welcome on the first day: this is hard to judge. It can be an anxious time for all, but staff will want to get started doing their job, and you have to leave eventually. Your child will need to get on with things and you need to allow them to go solo.
- You will know how to say goodbye, but perhaps you may wish to ask your child beforehand what might be best – this usually changes when the moment comes. Try not to cry until you’re in the sanctity of your own car.
- Meet ‘Matron’ on the first day – this is such a crucial relationship over the years, and matrons are useful and kind eyes and ears in the house. They will do most things for you if you look after them, although presenting a huge pile of clothes to name tape is not a good way to start.
Contact (another very hard one to get right):
- Each school will have their own rules as to when mobile phones can be accessed – this will be the same for the whole year group, so do ask about this to avoid any misunderstandings.
- There will be times when your child will be tired and emotional, hence their evening texts or phone calls might be a little upsetting. Breathe, take a step back: they’ll usually have forgotten about it in the morning although you may have had a sleepless night.
- While you’ll be desperate to hear how the school day has gone, don’t be anxious if you don’t hear from your child – be delighted that they’re busy.
- Hearing from you can make your child emotional, especially at the start. Newsy e-mails or texts can be easier for everyone, and sometimes the in-depth chats can wait until that exciting first weekend leave.
- Letters or cards are still a real tonic at any stage, so try to get into a routine or ask other family members to write as well.
And finally, play the long game: your beloved child will probably have a few bumps and scrapes along the way, but they’ll get there in the end.