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(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...

hellokittymania Thu 14-Nov-13 08:09:14

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.

Longtalljosie Sat 16-Nov-13 06:13:54

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.

Longtalljosie Sat 16-Nov-13 07:23:05

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.

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