Homesickness and Parenting the Boarder

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Four girls sat on a couch in the Junior House common room

Joining a new boarding school can be a big change, and not just for pupils, parents also have to adapt and settle into new routines; sometimes finding they may find themselves worrying about school more than their children! Throughout a child’s time at boarding school, parents need to navigate the best way to communicate with their children and understand how they are getting on without seeing them on a daily basis.

In the first of this year’s Parenting the Teenager updates we take a look at dealing with homesickness and parenting the boarder.

Homesickness is something that can affect pupils of all ages. Many pupils take to their new environment like a duck to water, some have a little wobble in the first few days and then forget all about it, whilst others need a little more help and support.

Below are a few top tips for helping with homesickness:

1. Reassure, reassure, reassure!

Pupils who feel homesick may feel that they are the only ones who feel this way. Reassuring them that it is a perfectly natural feeling and that they haven’t done anything wrong can be an important supportive step. Pupils may also need reassurance that feeling this way will change and that they will settle in in time. Pupils may need some encouragement that there will be plenty of time for them to see their family, and their pets… this can give them something to look forward to.

2. Encourage your daughter to talk with the House team

It is important for your daughters to talk with their Housemistresses, the House team and their Tutor if they are feeling homesick. There are lots of things that they will be able to do to try and make them feel better, from a hot chocolate and a chat to looking carefully at the kind of activities and opportunities that are on offer at School. Staff will be keeping a close eye on each pupil, but knowing that someone is feeling a little sad is really helpful for the team. Having a member of staff helping your daughter get through a period of homesickness can be a real comfort to pupils in the long run; experiencing that level of support can help them build resilience.

3. Keep busy

Life at Wycombe Abbey is a veritable merry-go-round of activities and opportunities. There is plenty on offer and always something to do. Some pupils can be a little shy about joining new groups or trying something different, but this can be a great way to make new friends, enjoy themselves and take their minds off being homesick.

4. Think about the best way to keep in contact with your daughter

If someone is homesick, then it can be tempting to contact them even more often than you normally would. It is worth thinking carefully about what the best times are to speak with your daughter and how often. Pupils are often very busy in the first few weeks and normally they are having a good time making friends and experiencing lots of new things. It is not uncommon, however, for them to reach for the phone when they are having a moment of homesickness and to pass on to you their worries or anxieties, leaving you to think that they are feeling sad all of the time. Calling home can often bring on feelings of homesickness, especially when they hear that you are having their favourite meal or when they hear their beloved dog barking in the background. Finding the right time to speak with your daughter and encouraging them to tell you about all the exciting things they have done can really help. Why not ask them to write you a postcard each week, telling you about something they have really enjoyed. This can help them focus on the positive and can be a nice keepsake for the future.

5. Trust and communicate with their Housemistress and her team

Housemistresses and their teams do all they can to help your daughter enjoy boarding life. They will be keeping a close eye on pupils and will let you know if they are worried about them. They will also be in a good position to see the fun your daughter will be having, which your daughter may not immediately tell you about if they are having periods of homesickness. The most important features of the relationship between a boarding school and its parents are trust and communication. If you are worried about your daughter or have any questions, please get in touch with your daughter’s Housemistress, especially as they may be able to give you a little bit more information about how your daughter is settling in.

6. Make boarding a home from home

All of our boarders have spaces that they can personalise with posters, photos or personal items. Making their dorm somewhere homely and comfortable can be a really good way of feeling settled in a new environment and feeling proud of their new school. Parents can help by encouraging pupils to bring with them a few choice items to make their dorm their own and by encouraging them to feel proud to be part of their school community.

It can be difficult for parents to think of their child feeling homesick or upset when they are away from home. Our instinct is almost always to try and solve the problem or to make the upset go away. Every day at School we see wonderful pupils grow and flourish in the boarding school environment. We know that some of them had times where they felt homesick or found it difficult to settle in, but these wonderful girls are examples of the amazing things that can be achieved with the right support and a little time.

James Jones
Deputy Head (Pupils)

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