It can’t be avoided; there will be times when your child feels sad, lonely, homesick or worried while away at boarding school (as you will too). The biggest fear for us boarding parents is that we will get a text, email or phone call from our child saying, ‘I’m sad, I’m lonely, I’m worried; I want to come home! I have no friends.’
And it hurts! It feels like our heart has been ripped out and stamped on and sometimes we can’t even breathe for a moment! When our kids are sad we are sad and then often we go into ‘fixing mode’ because all we want is for their hurt to go away so they can be happy again and we can stop feeling guilty. But when we go into ‘fixing mode’ we lose our ability to listen to understand, rather than to react or talk or fix and we can actually make the situation worse. So here are our 4 tips for how to deal with your child’s sadness:
Tip 1: Don’t cry with them: Yes we are sad too but this is not about our sadness so keep it to yourself. Try to show empathy instead of sympathy. Empathy is when we listen, understand and accept they way they feel. Sympathy is when we cry with them. This can reinforce the situation as they might think, ‘Well if mum/dad is so sad too then it must be a big deal!’. Furthermore they might start feeling guilty that they have caused you this sadness and might stop telling you how they feel. So acknowledge their feelings by all means but try to contain your own.
Tip 2: STOP and BREATHE: it really helps to use the 1 2 3 method: STOP what you are about to say, do or feel. Take a deep BREATH before you say anything. Then LISTEN to what your child is saying – still before you say or do anything! This gives you a few seconds to think about the situation and take control of your own feelings so they don’t take over and start controlling what you say or do.
Tip 3: Try some positive self talk: He/she will get over it – we are doing it for his/her best – it is a great school – we trust that the staff are professional and can deal with this – we will see him/her soon etc.
Tip 4: And know that they WILL get over it: Our kids get over things much quicker then we do. They might just need a little empathy and to be heard and the next day they are good again and are too busy to be even giving a thought to what they told us. But sometimes we cannot shake off the feeling of their sadness. Try to trust them (and the staff) that they will get through this and allow them to move on. If you are sending constant texts: ‘are you ok now’?, ‘do you have friends?’, ‘are you happy?’ this might just remind them about the sadness or they might feel they have to ‘play along’. My son sent me a text me on the second day of being at his new boarding school and said, ‘I have not made any friends, why did you do this to me?!’. It really hurt but then just 3 days later I got a text saying ‘I know it’s a free weekend but can I stay at school this weekend?’ Next time he came home he was SO happy and loves it. I never mentioned the ‘I have no friends’ text!
And last but not least: trust your child that he/she can cope!
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