Friday 6 December 2013

Signing in . . .Homesickness - not a disease!

As we are all heading into the Christmas Break, and looking forward to our long break, spare a thought for the families of our boarders who are preparing to send a new child away to board for the first time. The apprehension for many of these young people about living away from home, not having mum and/or dad there ready to offer support, worrying about missing their older or younger siblings, and moving into a foreign environment with a strange woman or man looking after them, can be quite overwhelming for many.  And we must not forget those returning boarders we have who miss home so much every time them return to the Boarding House.

So, how do you handle homesickness in your boarding house? Do you spend time with the families and students before they start and explain how they might feel homesick, and that sometimes they don’t even know why the feel that way? Do you explain to the mums (and dads in many cases) that they need to say goodnight in the lounge room rather than in their child’s bedroom for some months in preparation for them ‘leaving home? And how about teaching their child to put their laundry out each night and change their beds weekly rather than doing it for them? Have you encouraged them to visit the school, and the boarding house, in the year prior to them coming, so that the experience is not as foreign? Do you write to the child in the months leading up to them joining your community, telling them how much you are looking forward to having them join your ‘family’? These are just a few of many ideas which happen in boarding houses all over Australia to help new boarders prepare for their time away from home.

And what happens in your community once the new boarders arrive? Do you welcome them on a separate day to the returning boarders? Do you have big sisters/brothers available to help them on that first day? Do you make their beds for them before they arrive so it looks welcoming? Do you gradually split them from their families, rather than one heart-wrenching break at the end of the day (which often happens anyway, but at least they have had some time apart during the day)? Do you have some form of ritual to help them feel a part of your house? Do you make sure you are available on that first night (or first week!) as a stable presence for the new boarders to talk with?

That first weekend - is there so much organised that they can’t get bored? Do you spend time at those activities helping them all have fun (and showing you are human)? Is the food great so that they have little to complain about? Are the teachers educated to help the boarders understand why they feel that way, and to ensure they don’t feel too much like a little fish in a very big pond? Have you told the parents to write - or email - rather than always phoning as the boarders can enjoy reading, and re-reading, and re-reading again and again that written piece? Have you told the boarders to write back? Have you warned the parents that their son or daughter will call at their lowest, and, once they dump, will probably go off to have a great time while the parents sit at home fretting?

And when second term (and third, and fourth and ….) starts, do you understand that this might all return once again?

Of course homesickness doesn’t affect every boarder, and usually is something the boarders get used to, even if they don’t get over it. The wonderful work all our boarding staff do to help our boarders to make the most of every opportunity at school, and not miss home too much, is something we need to celebrate! 

Do you have ideas we can add for others to read? Please email us at and let us know what you have found effective - we’ll be more than happy to publish your words.

Until next time, Signing Out……

PS - We all hope that the Christmas break is a happy and holy one for you all, and that you take the time to regenerate and refresh - so that you can return to this wonderful work with renewed vigour!! Enjoy!!!!!!