(42 Posts)
Kenlee Thu 14-Nov-13 07:56:39

I am lucky my daughter has settled into boarding life very well. Although I have a friend who is not so lucky. what can be done if your a parent several thousand miles away to help...

My heart goes out to you. I'm not a parent but was at boarding school and know a family in Vietnam who sent their kids to school overseas.

Could you send a care package? That used to cheer me up. Does the school allow them to go out? Would she live gift vouchers of some kind?

Talk on skype.

Kenlee Thu 14-Nov-13 09:20:45

I know she speaks to her mum and dad on skype every night and her mother flew over for the half term. Which I suspect unsettled her futher.

she still is homesick..maybe its best to find an international school for her back home.

happygardening Thu 14-Nov-13 10:15:26

What is the house mistress doing to help? Are they even aware that she's struggling it never ceases to amaze me when parents don't communicate with school staff. The other people who often help are tutors, matron and the schools nurses if they have them. My DS's boarded from 7 yrs old ds2 walked in and with 48 hours looked like he'd always been there, DS1 who IMO was not a natural boarder took two terms to settle but did in the end and was towards the end of prep school life significantly happier than DS2.
Most boarding school staff I've spoken to over the years will tell you two terms to settle maybe a yr for those who are really struggling. After that I suspect it's not going to work. The other things all HM's will tell you is constant phone calls etc home definitely makes it worse.

schoolnurse Thu 14-Nov-13 10:22:01

Definitely agree about two terms to settle a year for those who are really struggling don't move her now. We had one a few years ago who I never thought would settle I saw him last week and he's so happy smiling all the time I barely recognised him.
Also agree not too much skype etc if there on skype all the time they are not integrating in boarding life. Occasionally some are never going to make it but it's too early to give up now. This is a long term most of our are exhausted the next two terms are better the weather is improving, the days are longer and they just seem to go so much quicker the summer term is always the best it just feels so much better.

Kenlee Thu 14-Nov-13 10:52:26

I know that my daughter rarely puts more than a few words in her whatsapp with me....She Tangos me at the weekend but other wise she loves it...just being with her friends....

J didnt really realize it could be that bad as the feedback from my daughter was all positive. I think year 7 is the best time fir them to board btw..

My friends daughter is at another school and is year 10 so I think that could be the reason. I will talk to my friend about talking to matron...

peteneras Thu 14-Nov-13 11:37:00

When my DS first boarded aged 10 though he didn’t complain but each time when he had to return to boarding school after term holidays etc., there were always tears in his eyes and a general reluctance to return. This went on for two to three terms. When he finally got used to boarding, then it was the other way round. He was always the last to leave boarding school when holidays begin and I remember in his final few years it was always a pain waiting in the car for him to leave school, sometimes waiting for more than an hour; and always one of the first to return when new term begins. Others who were there before him were the ones who had returned from overseas a few days earlier.

I say, it’s all about giving it time. Time is a great healer. When I saw young kids aged seven or eight in prep school (some of them from overseas) running about happily without a care in the world on the eve of school reopening, I knew then there’s nothing to fear as indeed later on when my own DS proved how much he loved boarding school.

I would also advise not to get in touch so regularly. It destroys the whole purpose of going to boarding school. Let your child finds his/her own niche and develop independence of mind.

Shootingatpigeons Thu 14-Nov-13 13:37:48

My husband is scarred for life by being sent away from a happy expat posting thousands of miles away (I think you are HK so you will understand a happy ESF primary on Kowloon side) to a British prep at 7, to the extent he has had counselling. The schools are much much better at handling homesickness now but boarding doesn't suit every child and he point blank refused to send his own children to boarding schools and we moved back from a very happy posting rather than do it. I have been UK guardian to a few expat / overseas pupils now and the vast majority wanted to come and settled well. I did however support one 10 year old who was sent and he was truly heartbroken, unhappy and sad and has been badly affected by the experience, as much his parents fault as the schools, but still sad.

As well as involving the school's pastoral support, does your friend's DC have a UK guardian who knows her / understands the cultural difference, who can give a taste of home, food etc. and some space to think and talk away from school.

Is there an underlying issue? Is she being excluded? Perhaps not blatant bullying but Brit girls can be very manipulative and cliquey, with it being worse in particular years (year 9 is the nadir) cohorts and schools. We have learnt the hard way that if that is happening then a move to another school might make all the difference, my DD is an excile from a particularly gruesome year at the school my older DD thrived in and is now transformed at another school, confidant, happy, lots of friends and realising it was the dysfunctional year not her.

Are there other girls from her culture / country in other years who can support her?

Shootingatpigeons Thu 14-Nov-13 15:13:35

I would add that I second the comment about the weather, the British winter is depressing if you are not used to the short days, cold and greyness. It is often recommended that those coming to board from eg Hing Kong start in the spring term when it is getting brighter. I was born and bred here but I still struggled in the first winter back after living overseas. I still find the lack of light in winter affects my mood. All this may sound trite to those who have always lived here and they are probably thinking hmm wimp etc grin but actually if people suffer from depression the medical profession do warn that this time of year can be a trigger.

schoolnurse Thu 14-Nov-13 16:18:12

The weather is definitely a negative for this term. We're all saying "it's such a long term" but I don't actually think it's any much longer than the other terms it just feels like it. Your friends DD is getting used to a new school, new country, new friends, probably a different education system and it's cold or even worse IMO damp grey and miserable and the days are getting shorter. We all tired, and many of our children and staff of course are suffering with coughs and colds etc.
Next term seems to go much quicker we see far less problems and the summer term is literally gone before we know it and it's lovely to see our children outside in the evening sun just chilling and enjoying life.
It is worth checking about bullying etc or even just not clicking with a dorm mate can add to homesickness problems again in most schools dorms will change every term as well.
Do get your friends to communicate with house staff it's so important, in my extensive experience most will do lots to help but not if they don't know.

summerends Thu 14-Nov-13 21:52:54

I think the friendships are key to enjoying boarding and homesickness will definitely take over if you are feeling the one on the fringe and there are n't enough proper group activities to make that less apparent. Sometimes it takes a bit longer for those friendships to develop and I imagine if your friend's DD started in year 10, then she may be having to work harder to make friendships if there are not a lot of new entrants. Hopefully it is not a similar situation to what Shooting's DD experienced. If she can stand it and the school is worth it then, as everybody else has said, worth sticking to it for the 2 terms and in the meantime get the houseparents involved.

Kenlee Fri 15-Nov-13 05:17:35

Well I echo the sentiment about British winters.. Thats why I left ....along with the tax....Its enough to drive anyone to depression.. .

I will have a long chat with my friend this weekend.
1) Ask her to stop ringing her daughter
2) Talk to pastroal care
3) Get her a group of friends

I think she went with some friends but somehow it didnt work out..

Kenlee Fri 15-Nov-13 10:12:46

Shooting I think I met your husband as I went to most of my God daughters parents evenings.. He will be happy to know that she is now doing very at UCLA....

Shootingatpigeons Fri 15-Nov-13 10:56:54

? kenlee he was at the interestingly and entirely inappropriately named gun club school (only in Hong Kong) which doesn't exist anymore.

Kenlee Fri 15-Nov-13 11:02:21

Then I did not . haha I thought he worked in the ESF school . .

pyrrah Fri 15-Nov-13 22:12:41

Definitely agree on not calling too often.

When I went to boarding school (full boarding not weekly), none of us were allowed to see our parents for the first 2 weeks. There were no mobile phones or computers in those days so we had a pay-phone in the corridor and calls were limited to a max of 10 minutes.

Sounds brutal but too much contact at the beginning is very unsettling and makes it all much harder.

It was hard the first couple of terms for many people, but generally by the 2nd year (year 10) everyone was pretty happy about being away from home. I hated the goodbyes at the beginning of term in the first 2 years, but after that it was fine.

Hope your friend's daughter is happier soon.

Kenlee Fri 15-Nov-13 23:40:51

thanks everyone....for the advice...

To be honest when my friend asked me I was unaware of what should be done. I just knew my daughter was having a wail of a time at school. Every weekend there is activities. During the school week they are always busy to 7 doing prep then having supper...Im not sure why it is called supper. I thought it should be dinner. Anyways after that she is so busy with her friends that by the time its bed time she has forgotten to ring again. Sometime I think we miss her more than she us.

You really can not say that to someone who's child is having a bad time of it. She knows my daughter intergrated well. I just didn't know what we did right and what she did wrong if anything.

schoolnurse Sat 16-Nov-13 05:56:15

I doubt she has done anything "wrong" or that there is even anything wrong with the school we're just all different, some take boarding in their stride others struggle for quite a while. You do say she's in yr 10 and I'm assuming started in yr 10 and most children probably started in yr 9 so she is trying to break into an established group who have probably settled into boarding. But it's still not insurmountable. She just needs time.
OP it is easy to be blasé if you child is busy and happy but we do have children who become very homesick after a couple of terms or even a couple of years, the novelties worn off, the work loads increasing, or it's a term where they're playing their least favourite sport 5 days a week, or the simple realisation that this is it for the next five or so years, even changes in HM's etc and thus house ethos/rules, can upset those who seemed very settled. Everyone is often taken aback "they seemed so happy" but again most work through it and settle.
Most frighteningly for us as parents and staff is how quick the time goes; one minute they're children, the next they're towering over me, it's their last term and they're telling me where they are going to university and we can't believe that what seems like only last week a very homesick child is now a young adult.

I went to boarding school from the age of 11. We weren't allowed to call home unless it was a family birthday, it was torture. I used to live for sneaking to the phone box on a Saturday.

Do NOT advise your friend to stop calling her child, I beg of you. Children don't stop loving their parents because they're out of sight. I was very hmm about your comment that seeing her child at half term "unsettled her further".

Forgive me, but just because your child seems fine and happy doesn't mean she is. There's a staggering amount of pressure put on children that if they're any sort of person they will "thrive" at boarding school. And not to upset parents with tears. You can see why they do it, their business model depends on an illusion of happy children. It actually takes a lot of strength of character to admit that actually, no, I'm not happy here and that's OK.

In the years after my friends and I left boarding school when we would talk about what life there was like often the other people around the table in the pub would be full of positivity "wasn't it great!" I would just sip my pint and say no, actually, it wasn't great. It was pretty dreadful. And they would just deflate and say, yeah, actually it was dreadful.

schoolnurse Sat 16-Nov-13 07:18:58

longtall you weren't happy and maybe neither were your friends but this does not mean that at all the children were unhappy and even more importantly children boarding in 2013 are unhappy. Children are now no longer not allowed to ring their parents unless it's a special occasion, parents are very very much more involved in school life, our HM's work tirelessly for the welfare of the children in the care, good boarding schools have staff like myself who are dedicated to the children's welfare an ones who are constantly watching out for unhappy children; an independent person who the children know they can turn too for help support etc. things have changed. In my professional opinion the vast majority of our boarders are happy.

schoolnurse - seriously, and I'm sure you're very good at your job - how can they be? Homesickness is the pits. Everyone wants to be home - even if you're just out at work your spirit lifts as you get in the door. No-one wants to be in an institution.

Kenlee Sat 16-Nov-13 07:31:58

Im just happy my daughter is happy...but even now I still look for signs of any unhappiness.

Will the mum will fly over after christmas to see if anything more can be done....If need be to change schools....

JugglingChaotically Sat 16-Nov-13 09:33:17

Don't rush at it. It takes time.
I left in similar situation. Really regretted it quite soon afterwards. Went back to day school then boarded elsewhere a year later.
Should never have left the first one but had built up to being utterly homesick and was just beginning to settle when I left.
Leave it summer.

schoolnurse Sat 16-Nov-13 21:31:37

"How can they?"
Why shouldn't they be happy? longtall

Kenlee Sun 17-Nov-13 05:30:16

I don't get it... why would boarders still board if they are unhappy...Although I have to admit...I always ask my daughter if she is happy or unhappy everytime we speak. She always says she is and I dont have to ask everytime as it is boring her.

To be honest I also think it has to do with the house staff who are excellent at my daughter school. So Im one of the lucky ones. Im sure there are some bad ones but I also think it all about fitting the school and vice versa...

Some kids need academic schools some need pastoral care...I just hope my daughter will continue to be happy throughout her school life...touch wood...

I think those who dont fit into boarding should never be forced to board...Those that do should be given every oppurtunity to do so.

Why shouldn't they be happy? Goodness. Well - that one's simple. Because people - all people but especially children - need their families around them. They need individual care and attention, especially through their teenage years.

Why would boarders still board if they're unhappy? Well, firstly because as I say, boarding schools tell you that the right sort of person (ie a worthwhile person who's worth anything at all) will "thrive" at boarding school. It's accepted there are people who don't take to it but the unspoken (but nonetheless very clear) implication is that these sorts of people are deeply inferior and weak. There's also a lot of pressure not to upset your parents.

You are paying money for boarding - a lot of it. In my case, the services paid almost all of it but even the remainder plus uniform costs etc was a real stretch. Add the pressure above, and you feel obligated to make your parents happy by making them feel the investment you're making is working.

schoolnurse Sun 17-Nov-13 09:52:24

We have unhappy children at our school, both a day and boarders by the way. From experience there are also unhappy children in all day schools both state and independent who many years later will post on forums stating how miserable they and their friends were or during reunions find other like minded souls and discuss how awful it all was.
My colleagues and I are trained and committed to identifying and assisting unhappy children, we are proud to offer a 24 hour confidential and independent service and are in many cases the children's advocates in a variety of situations, on top of this as nurses we have a legal duty of care. As a rough estimate only about 10% of our children are unhappy and only in a few cases is this unhappiness caused by homesickness most have significant issues at home in fact we have a few who would rather be with us than at home, others are struggling with academic or other expectation again usually coming from parents as demonstrated by a recent study. The other 90% in my professional judgement and as a mother are having a time of their lives, they are getting a good education but also loads of opportunities that children in day schools don't get and are surrounded by their friends all the time, enjoying the camaraderie that's associated with boarding and certainly in our case also supported by caring dedicated staff.
I accept you were unhappy and if you a boarder sitting in my surgery today telling me you were were unhappy I would do all in my power to help you but please don't assume that your experience will apply to all in boarding schools in 2013.

Kenlee Sun 17-Nov-13 13:21:54

I still dont get it... My daughter is having a wail of a time..She actually said that she wished her friends can come back home with her over Christmas.

I understand that some girls that board arent happy. Although I know one girl who wasnt to happy and extremely homesick. The girl was picked up immediately by the house matron and is doing really well....

My friends daughter is not doing well....and I am not happy about that....Im sure a talk with the house matron should help...and if it doesnt a change of schools...

When I left in September I spent some time to talk to the older girls ...almost all said it was great...

summerends Sun 17-Nov-13 13:42:09

Kenlee, your daughter may have the personality to make new friends easily plus she has started in a year where every one is new so is geared up for that. Your friend's daughter (as has already been said) does not have the advantage of the latter and may also have a personality that takes longer to find and make good friends. It does not necessarily mean that the school will not be right for her but, for example if she is feeling ostracised and the quality of the lessons and activities is not living up to expectations, then it might be worth considering an earlier move (bearing in mind disruption to GCSE syllabuses if that is an issue since she is in year 10).

Kenlee Sun 17-Nov-13 14:57:44

This is exactly what I mean boarding is not for everyone...but to say boarding in general is not true....

Im certain my friends daughter is an exception rather than the norm...

OldRoan Sun 17-Nov-13 15:12:48

I started boarding in Y10 (but not overseas). I loved being at home, longtalljosie, but our local schools were awful and I was reduced to tears on a nightly basis so, for me, even at 14 I knew I had to make a difficult decision and I was fortunate that my parents supported me. I was happy boarding in terms of pastoral and educational welfare, but when I was at home I was a nervous wreck from Sunday night to Friday evening which is no way to live a life.

I made friends quickly, but was certainly aware that I was the 'new girl' for quite a time. It is possible that the discomfort comes from your friend's daughter, rather than her peers, and that is perfectly natural. I saw my parents often, and spoke to them regularly (I appreciate this isn't always possible).

My best friend started boarding in Y9, and we quickly bonded, but all the staff commented that she was much happier when I was there. I don't mean that arrogantly, just that once she clicked with someone everyone saw an instant change in her happiness. She told me how much she hated Y9: her parents told her to stick out the year and then decide. By having an end in sight, she was happier, but equally by the time the year was up she had settled better.

My sister was miserable for the first two terms. It does take time. Some people are ready to board earlier than others, some will never be ready. I think she needs to stick it out, if only for the year, then chalk it up to experience and move on. She's 14 - old enough to be miserable (and yes, to be affected long term by it), but also old enough to know she is nearly 1/3 of The way through the year now and the worst is over. They'll be ramping up for Christmas soon and that is a lovely distraction.

schoolnurse, while at boarding school I would never, ever have told a member of staff I was unhappy. I would have insisted I was. You don't get it - but I do understand that.

schoolnurse Sun 17-Nov-13 16:42:36

Actually I do get it I get it more than you imagine because unlike perhaps when you were at boarding school we monitor the psychological as well as physical health of all our children very carefully. Children don't just have to sit there telling us that they're unhappy we are constantly watching out for signs if unhappiness, we are not only regularly in houses just getting to know the children in our care so that we can spot changes we are part of a multi disciplinary team constantly watching out for unspoken signs of trouble. We have also created a culture in our school of seeking help, turning to nurses, matron, tutors, chaplains etc and I can reassure it's extensively used by our children the vast majority of children (and their parents) recently reported they felt exceedingly well cared for and supported, all knew who to turn too and felt comfortable doing this. You and your friends were clearly unhappy at boarding school which is very tragic but this does not mean all children boarding were unhappy then and it definitely doesn't mean all children boarding are unhappy now.

OldRoan Sun 17-Nov-13 16:49:25

schoolnurse definitely agree! we could get signed off if we were feeling a bit run down or mopey - think it was easier to get a sick day out of matron than my mum - because they were so good at spotting when we needed tough love and when we needed a bit of time and space to sort ourselves out and stop a bit of a down day turning into anything worse.

Kenlee Sun 17-Nov-13 18:50:33

Well I know that Im grateful that our house matron is rather clever....she can spot trouble a million miles before it gets close she has already dealt with it....

I do believe that the pastoral care in most modern boarding is the same. Of course there will be unhappy kids. My friend is flying over at Christmas to see what needs to be done. What can be done ..and to implement a plan that is workable. She has rung matron and they
have seen nothing untowards.

coffeeaddict Sun 17-Nov-13 20:18:49

Longtalljosie, I went to both day and boarding schools and was FAR happier at the boarding school. The girls were nicer. The atmosphere was easier. At my London day school there were some real b*tches who gave me a constant hard time for being musical and 'swotty'. At the boarding school being musical was cool. And the facilities were amazing, life in house was fun... I felt like I'd gone to heaven.

I'm really sorry you were sad but you can't generalise and say that therefore all boarders must be sad.

Kenlee Tue 19-Nov-13 01:33:16

I think it also depends if you have friends or not.... or even if the girls are the right type....

But as I have seen with one particular girl they (boarding staff) will try everything to help the girls settle...

In fact im surprised that my friends school aren't doing the same..

trufflesnuffler Tue 19-Nov-13 01:42:15


after watching Homeland I expected a completely different thread wink

HelenRN Sun 24-Nov-13 21:55:51

As a Houseparent at a British state boarding school, I can say that some children take to boarding straight away......but others need more support. In these cases, all staff should be very aware of homesickness....making sure contact home is regular, whether it is by phone,email,Skype....and also trying to match the pupil with a pupil 'buddy' look out for them at school and when back at the Boarding House. A good boarding house should feel 'homely', and parents should feel confident that Houseparents are approachable and friendly. I find that quick emails home or phone calls giving informal updates about what their child is doing,really helps parents to feel relaxed about things. The main thing is communication and talking to people....and also, the fact that it is OK to be homesick at Houseparents we need to be alert to the signs and provide activities, support,a listening ear, when needed!! We also send out a twice termly newsletter to all parents, and the feedback we have had about it is overwhelmingly positive!! Parents can see their children enjoying themselves and relaxing......this doesnt always come across when pupils call home!!!
I hope this helps smile

Ge0rgina Fri 20-Dec-13 11:30:49

@Kenlee, A friend of mine is experiencing something v similar to this! She did a whole bunch of research (googling mainly!) and found this article, it's only short but I know for a fact it's helped her alot!

I hope this helps!

Ge0rgina Fri 20-Dec-13 11:31:48
Kenlee Sun 22-Dec-13 20:40:31

thaks i will pass it on

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