By the time you make the decision to send your troubled and defiant son to boarding school, you have likely exhausted all options—restrictions, counseling, medications, help from his teachers and school and other sources. However, you now realize that the best decision for both of you is attending a therapeutic boarding school so that he can receive the help that he so desperately needs. Under the best of circumstances, this transition would be difficult. But your son is likely dealing with one or more issues, such as anger control, addiction, academic challenges, PTSD or other behavioral problems. As such, he will struggle all the more with adjusting to a new school. However, as a parent, you can help him work through the following common experiences and feelings during this process.
Helping Your Son Prepare for Boarding School
- Anger – Many teen boys struggle with anger, in part, due to changing emotions and learning how to appropriately vent. He might address anger during individual or group counseling sessions, which will help him in the future.
- Fear – Find a buddy or staff member that your son can relate to. This person, in turn, might introduce him to other students so that he can make new friends.
- Loneliness – The best way to overcome loneliness is by staying busy. Find new activities, sports and new friends to spend time with. Keep photos of your home, pets, friends and family close at hand.
- Shyness – The other boys might feel shy as well but might try to cover up their feelings by acting boisterous. He should look for new friends to connect with. He can break the ice by asking others questions about where they live and their hobbies. He can also find activities, clubs and sports to fill his free time. Remind him that if he is friendly, others will likely reciprocate.
- Express his feelings – For times when he can’t speak with you, encourage him to keep a journal to process his feelings.
Dealing with the Transition to Boarding School
The following practical tips can help you and your child deal with the transition to a therapeutic boarding school:
- Visit the school with your child before he goes away from home.
- Connect with a staff person as a liaison so that you have a point of contact for your child.
- Remain in touch as much as possible, depending on school policies. Learn these ahead of time. For example, can parents visit the school? How often can children contact you via technology? Are they allowed to have phones? How does the school differentiate between bad bout of homesickness and an actual problem that might affect his learning? Answering these questions can help your son adjust more easily.
- Continue to provide support to your son, especially during the first few weeks of school.
- Encourage his involvement in sports and activities at the school.
Your son will likely deal with difficult emotions and new experiences as he begins therapeutic boarding school. However, preparing him for this new phase of life can help him adjust successfully.