The emotional aspect – Preparing your child (and yourself) for boarding school

Sending your child to a boarding school (whether it’s in or around London, or further afield) is a significant milestone for any family. It’s a journey filled with mixed emotions and substantial changes – both for the child and the parents!

While it’s crucial to prepare your child for this new adventure, parents also need to brace themselves for the transition. Here’s how you can navigate this phase with care and understanding.

back to school shoes

Understanding Your Child’s Feelings

As your child prepares for life at their new school, they might experience a whirlwind of emotions — excitement for the new experiences ahead, perhaps coupled with nervousness or even fear of the unknown.

Open conversations about these feelings are essential. Encourage your child to share their thoughts and concerns, and reassure them that it’s normal to feel apprehensive about such a significant change. You should also consider the following options:

Familiarising with the School Environment

A visit to their prospective boarding school before the term starts can be incredibly beneficial. It helps your child get acquainted with their future living and learning spaces.

For instance, if you’d like to enrol them at the Oratory, a small boarding school near London, nestled on a lush rural estate, you can take part in one of their Open Days and get a real taste of what life at the school will be like. Getting to see the classrooms and dormitories, and meeting some staff members, can transform the unknown into something tangible and less intimidating.

Building Communication Routines

Establish a routine for staying in touch. Whether it’s through daily messages, weekly video calls, or emails, consistent communication can help maintain a sense of connection. However, it’s important to find the right balance — too much contact might impede your child’s journey towards becoming self-reliant.

Encouraging Independence

Begin encouraging independence before your child leaves for boarding school. Simple tasks like managing personal laundry, organising study schedules, or making small decisions can significantly boost their confidence in handling boarding school life independently.

Dealing with Parental Emotions

For parents, this transition can stir a complex mix of pride, sadness, and worry. It’s vital to acknowledge and express these feelings, perhaps by talking with other parents who have experienced similar situations. This period can also be an opportunity for you to rediscover personal interests or hobbies.

Creating a Positive Farewell

The day of departure is crucial. Plan a comforting and encouraging send-off, maybe with a special family breakfast or a heartfelt goodbye ritual. A positive farewell sets a reassuring tone for the new chapter ahead.

Preparing for Academic Adjustments

Boarding school, especially a prestigious one like The Oratory School, can be academically as well as psychologically challenging. Discuss with your child how they can seek help within the school, be it from teachers or peer study groups. Emphasising the importance of self-advocacy in their learning is key.

Building a Support Network

Encourage your child to actively participate in school activities and social events. Building a network of friends and supportive peers can significantly ease the emotional transition and create a sense of belonging.


The emotional preparation for boarding school involves multiple layers — understanding your child’s feelings, creating a familiar environment, building communication routines, fostering independence, managing your emotions, creating a memorable farewell, preparing for academic challenges, and building a supportive network.

This journey, while challenging, can be a rewarding experience for the entire family, leading to growth and new opportunities.

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