Deans of Boarding
In a recent submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Accessibility and Quality of Mental Health Services in Rural and Remote Australia, the Federal Council of the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association of Australia (ICPA) highlighted the stressors faced by some boarding students.
Boarding students can feel the separation from family and pets keenly. Living in a large urban environment, after growing up in smaller rural communities, concerns about conditions at home, particularly in a time of record drought, are factors that boarders have to contend with to some degree. Suggested strategies by the ICPA to address these stressors include the implementation of programs that prepare both students and parents with advice on how to manage “the new environment and what to expect, how to manage homesickness and who to talk to when unable to talk to home and strategies to manage different situations.” The promotion of an engaged boarding community is also vital. Community weekends where boarders are engaged in activities both on and off site, acknowledgement of boarders who promote community via Dormitory Awards and the Big Hearted Boarder Award are important features of boarding at Loreto Normanhurst.
The boarding school staff liaise closely with counsellors, Heads of House, tutors, teachers, Heads of Department, Learning Enrichment, and the Directors of Pastoral Care and Mission in order to provide holistic care to our boarders. In partnership with parents, the boarding staff assist boarders to meet the challenges that living away from home presents. Opportunities to meet with counsellors are offered on a regular basis and supervisors are always available to assist. At a recent Boarding Expo in Narrabri, the consistent theme that emerged was the value placed on the partnership between parents and the boarding school. An important feature of boarding at Loreto Normanhurst is the role played by parents of day students. Offering to take a boarder home for the weekend or driving them to sport or other activities enhances this partnership even further.
While much emphasis has been placed on students and the adjustments they need to make when moving to boarding, the potential impact on parents was also discussed in the most recent Macquarie University magazine, The Lighthouse. Professor Jennie Hudson, Director at the Centre for Emotional Health in the Department of Psychology in the article, Boarding School is tough for Parents Too, suggests parents need to consider their own well-being.
In her view, parents are role models and how they handle the transition to boarding school will have a big impact on how children cope. Developing strategies to cope with the transition are equally important for parents and having “strong social networks are a particularly important buffer in times of stress.” Professor Hudson advises that if a parent’s goal is to “raise a happy, healthy adult, then investing in their emotional health as well as your own is a valuable endeavour.” Furthermore, it is important for boarding parents to instil gradual resilience in their children prior to coming to boarding school, rather than “throwing them in the deep end”. The management of emotions, careful planning and structured support makes the transition to boarding a much smoother process for all.
Mrs Joanne Hallinan and Ms Suzanne Leahy
Deans of Boarding