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Beat boarding school blues

Hostel Room - Stock image
Hostel Room - Stock image

Sending your child to boarding school is a hard decision for many parents to make.

Not only will they miss their little rays of sunshine, but the sense of losing control over their kids can worry many parents. Some parents find themselves constantly on the phone and on Skype with their kids, or making the weekly trip down to the boarding school to constantly check on their child.

How can you ensure that you parent your child effectively even when they are not around for you to reprimand, comfort and protect them?

There are certain things a parent can do to still play their role, says educational psychologist Nombulelo Nzama.

"In the new age of technology that we live in, your child being in boarding school away from home does not mean that you cannot keep an eye on them still.

"Most boarding schools do not allow students the luxury of having cellphones, but the occasional visits and calls to the boarding school master to check on your child's progress is feasible," she says.

Nzama says it is important for parents not to see boarding school as punishment of the child, but also not to forget their responsibilities.

"You get two types of parents.. You get parents who see boarding school as a sort of indefinite baby-sitting service that allows them to have the child out of their hair while they pursue other interests.

"These parents are often neglectful of their children, leaving them to basically parent themselves and only seeing them during school holidays.

"This is the completely wrong approach to boarding school.. Parents need to remember that a child who is away from home will find it a scary situation to adapt to, and they may experience a sense of loneliness and of being unwanted," Nzama says.

"In that instance, your voice as a parent should always be there to reassure them that going to boarding school was the best choice, listing all the reasons why they went to boarding school in the first place [which you should have discussed with them numerous times before packing their bags], "Nzama says.

The other type of parents are the ones who are reluctant to cut the apron strings, and are constantly looking for an excuse to back out of it, she says.

"These parents need to realise that boarding school offers the priceless benefit of your child learning independence and a lot of discipline.

"Boarding school comes with your child adhering to often strict guidelines from the school, as well as adhering to a defined schedule," she says.

"Sometimes a child needs an outsider's authoritative voice and being away from the smothering arms of a parent can offer just that." 

My time in boarding school

Wonga Majikijela, a 20-year-old university student from Maluti in the Eastern Cape, says he went to boarding school in 2014, from Grade 10 to matric last year. He says the experience turned him into the responsible young adult he is today.

"When I first got there, it was very hard for me to adjust. I missed home badly. "The strict rules were very hard to abide by at first - like having the lights switched off at a certain time and the mandatory study time.

"It was a very different experience as compared to being at home, because I think I got too comfortable with my parents to a point where defying them became easier and easier, whereas in boarding school, they did not leave any room for us being defiant.

"Looking back, my boarding school experience taught me a lot. I became responsible and learned how to dedicate a lot of time to my studies, which is something that is serving me well right now being in university."

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