Boarding School Adjustment???

So many of you love BS from day one. I’d love to hear from everyone else. Anyone who hated the first semester but glad they stuck it out? How long did it take for things to turn around? What is your advice for the homesick or lonely?

I wish I had the answer for you, but I do know several people my age who struggled until Thanksgiving break, and then cried when it was time to go home. They ended up loving the rest of their time there. My daughter is currently struggling with homesickness and we really want her to stick it out, but I know this is really hard on her.

A few years ago, there was a wise mom on here who wrote something like this “Nobody has an easy launch - even if they claim they do”. I won’t say if that is true for everyone, but I will say that her post did help us through some tough days.

Keeping it real here…this is a very difficult and unique time to start boarding school. It must be emotionally challenging in ways that none of us could have truly prepared for, or imagined. The first term is usually challenging for most first year students. Sometimes, it’s the homesickness - other times it’s adjusting to life in a dorm and living far from home. If you can, discuss the source of the homesickness. Is it based from feeling isolated? Is it connected to the academics? Is it compounded by boredom or loneliness? For a few of the 9th grade students we know, this first term has felt lonely in large part because of the initial forced isolation in dorm rooms, limited social interaction, and fewer opportunities to make friends.

Please let her know that you have every confidence in her to make it through this first term. I have great faith that next term will be much better and she will feel better having grown from this experience.

I agree with @Golfgr8. My kid actually had a really really hard winter term too and all the older parents assured me spring would be the “better term” (of course our spring was online so, not so much). Anyway, it just might be that it’s even as far away as spring for really being better and finding your groove. It can be really hard.

Just a suggestion to parents out there - especially first year parents:
If your student is feeling isolated and not making connections, do not wait to reach out to the dorm parent as well as your school’s student life office, health center or counseling center.

I believe it’s important for faculty/staff in Student Life and Counseling Centers to know if students are experiencing heightened levels of loneliness and social isolation. Feedback is also important if the school is not providing students with enough experiences to meet others or to have weekend activities.

Hmmm… that’s a tough one. I’m not sure I’d call in the cavalry so quickly. Making friends and forging relationships is one of the independent skills that kids need to learn…and learning means that it can have a rocky start and failures. Calling in resources at the early signs of failure can lead to learned helplessness. At some point, we stopped making play dates for them, and we have no intention of intervening if they’re having troubles making friends at college, work, or their VFW meetings.

Me personally…I’d give much more runway before activating BS resources.

Of course, we’re not talking about kids with clear signs of diagnosable mental health issues.

I don’t think it is quick at all. For any school on trimester schedule, they are half way through the first term already. I subscribed to ‘let the kid figure it out’ philosophy last year, even though there was a fairly big issue. Luckily, it was normal year and there was a parent weekend (right this weekend last year actually) so we had opportunity to meet with the advisor. He asked and the issue came up naturally. He stepped in and it was fixed pretty much instantaneously, and kid was much happier after that. There may not be such opportunity this year, but it is far enough into the year that reaching out to the advisor is totally normal. They may be reaching out themselves, in fact, but if not checking in is not OTT at all. Boarding school adjustment is hard for a lot of kids every year, but it is all amplified dramatically this year with all the extra rules kids are dealing with. The adults there do not see everything and if your child is miserable and something can be done about it, they will be happy to help if asked. But it may well be that new freshman is not quite capable of asking, and we are still parents, so…my vote is to reach out.

Reaching out doesn’t always mean asking for intervention. When I know something that I think the team of adults around kiddo should know (rare that I know something they don’t, so it doesn’t happen often), I give the advisor a heads up. They can decide what to do with the info, usually I expect they just pay attention a little more rather than confront kiddo about it. I trust that they have their way of handling things.

If I were getting the vibe that kiddo was depressed or struggling emotionally beyond the normal teenage drama, I would without hesitation alert the appropriate adult. If I were in their shoes, I would want to know if something was up.

Agree @Altras and @CateCAParent - this is a unique start to a unique school year. For many kids, their launch into BS included a 10-14 day isolation in their dorm room with meals left at their door and only brief outdoor excursions. I heard from several first year parents during this time period and the needs, as well as suggestions, were shared with the school. As a result of being proactive with communication, more events, check-ins, webinar-based fun activities, and socially-distant events were implemented. The schools can’t listen to your student’s needs if you don’t speak up.

BTW - did Choate and Loomis start having boarders last week? I heard that Loomis was going to be the last to begin having boarders come to campus. How is that going? Do those students have an isolation period?

Choate boarders returned to campus the first week of October. They were quarantined the first week. In-person classes started this past Monday and day students were allowed back on campus. Athletics started on Tuesday. They’ve put chairs everywhere outside on campus. During quarantine, small groups could meet outside, but no indoor socializing was permitted. The restrictions eased a bit last week, but it’s still fairly strict. For example, the cross country team is practicing, but the they have to run with masks…including interval training. There have been no cases thusfar, despite many, many reported violations of the COVID rules (which I suspect is the case at most BSs and colleges).

The PSAT is being administered at Choate today. Are all other BSs administering the PSAT?

For my older sibling (who went to BS), it was definitely not all sunshine and daisies for the first year, but I think she felt better after making friends and getting a handle on the courseload.

DA had PSAT today . We know two of the day schools who had it Wednesday. Test taking was divided among many classrooms with only 8 students in each room that we know of. Not yet heard from my kiddo on how it went.

Cate did the PSAT on Wednesday, too. Not sure how they handled it. In person classes (outdoors) only started Thursday.

I really feel for these kids. The transition to bs is hard enough, but the isolation during quarantine is brutal. Even with the restrictions being lifted somewhat, it is still pretty stressful.

All the more reason for keeping connected to the advisors- they can’t possibly know what is going on in the students’ heads right now. This is uncharted territory for the schools, and they need the constructive feedback of what is and isn’t working.

This has been a very helpful discussion and I thank each of you for offering some advice/observations about first year at BS. When I’ve asked other parents at the school, everyone is upbeat and they say their kids are loving it, having a blast, no issues etc. It does help to hear that it’s not all “sunshine and daisies” in the beginning and that kids who get off to slow start may learn to love it eventually.

FWIW - I strongly recommend a Furbo or equivalent for those kids who miss their family dogs and are having trouble adjusting to BS life. Its a real time camera that allows them to talk to the dog(s) and give them treats.

No…I don’t work for Furbo. :smile:

This is a crazy year. I’ve talked to my older kid who is dealing with different stressors (mainly a heavy load) than my younger one who is 9th grader. Let’s all recognize that it’s hard to make friends with a mask on. And things are very different. My oldest was the only student in the library yesterday afternoon. Why? Some kids aren’t really leaving their dorms, some have been told by parents to interact as little as possible ( some parents have really amped up the fear). There are teachers who are trying their best to teach online and in-class and make it as normal as possible. There are a handful who yell at kids to keep their distance and seem really worked up all the time. So, people are reacting differently. Anxiety works in different ways. I don’t know anyone in America who isn’t worried about something these days.

For any first year, keep your head up. This will pass and you will look back on it. Stay focused and keep talking about it. Talk to your teachers, advisor, friends and family about what you are struggling with. Know that better days are coming. You can all do this. And Thanksgiving break is very close.

I’m teaching my kids to stay positive and roll with the waves. If you get hit, stand up, reposition and get back in.

Interestingly, this craziness seems to be favoring the introverts (which I know two of who are at BS now).

The kids spend much time in their rooms, except for in-person classes and structured activities, like sports. The dining halls now have 8-foot round tables with one chair on each side…kind of like the seating arrangement for prisoners meeting with their attorneys. And common areas and other social spaces have similarly distanced furniture arrangements. It’s pretty easy for most kids to prefer to watch Netflix in their rooms (which their parents encourage), rather than congregate in such areas.