Homesickness can be brutal for both your son and for parents.

As a parent it can feel like your heart is being ripped out in some cases daily. It is extremely hard hearing how sad your boy may sound on the phone, and then you are left reeling for 24 hours until the next call – you are often left worried that they are feeling like this all day.

Rest assured only vary rare cases are that bad and in most cases it’s temporary and things usually improve as your son settles in. The reality is that most boys tend to save up their homesickness and sadness for when they talk to you on the phone. They are often fine once they get off the phone and many will carry on without realising how that can leave a parent feeling. They are often so distracted with their boarding routine, school, study and playing with the other boys that they don’t have time to think about how homesick they are until they speak to you.

Homesickness is often worse when boys are in younger grades however it can strike at any time and often boys who start boarding in older grades suffer the most as their peers have usually outgrown their homesickness.

It does get easier, and you will get through it, it just may take longer for some than others. Strangely your son may show no signs of homesickness initially, often when the novelty wears off or they start getting tired they may develop it later in the term or even later in the year – this is very normal.

There really is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to homesickness. Here are some suggestions to try however, it really will be trial and error until you find what works best for you and your son.

Saying goodbye

Firstly, when you drop your son into boarding for the first time, it is important for you and your son that you say goodbye. It may sound strange to remind you of this but sometimes it can get a bit chaotic putting them into boarding on that first day. Once you have said goodbye it is often much easier on the boys (and the parents) if you try

and avoid going back into the boarding house or seeing them again. If you need to drop something off, arrange for the boarding staff to meet you to collect.

First term in boarding

Try and limit how much you take them out in the first term they start boarding especially the first half of the term. Usually, the connections they make in boarding are formed on weekends when they have more time to hang out and socialise.

Try and encourage them to sign up to the large range of activities available to them during the week (e.g sports lessons, sports training etc.). There are many activities offered on weekends that gets them out of the boarding house and off campus.

In saying that, be mindful that it is often quite a transition for boys to get into the boarding routine and they will get tired, some will want to sign up for everything on offer and can often burn out.

Check in with your Head of House/House Mother to monitor how they are coping and perhaps limit the non-essential activities if it is getting too much.

If you know boys in older grades perhaps ask them to call in and check in on your son (sometimes older brothers are not as helpful as we would hope, and friends may be a little more empathetic).

Phone calls

Keep a list of things by the phone to talk about with your son if they are upset. This could include something you have seen on the news, something that’s happened on the farm, or simply how your day as been. Distract them and be positive.

Try asking questions that require them to provide an answer other than ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. For example, rather than did you have a good day today? Tell me what was the best part of your day today?

Don’t avoid talking about home. They will still want to hear about what their pets have been up to, how much rain you have had or what’s happening on the farm. If you feel it is upsetting them, ask if they want to hear about what is happening at home or not, they will tell you.

Try forming a habit like getting them to tell you what three good things are about TGS or their day before they can tell you anything negative.

Talk about things they can look forward to, maybe something at school later that week, their sporting fixtures or their upcoming holidays.

If you are feeling sad or emotional and feel that you will get upset when you speak to your son, it is probably best if you don’t answer his call at

that time. You can always check in on his welfare with the Head of House or House Mother and when you are feeling better call him later when you are feeling more in control of your emotions. Sometimes five minutes is all you need to do some deep breathing so you can keep it together when you call him back.

If your son is particularly emotional on the phone repeatably of an evening, speak to your Head of House and perhaps try calling them in the morning until they are more settled as they will often be more distracted and not have as much time to talk, this is often not the most ideal time to talk to them but in the short term it may help.

If you don’t have older sons at the school, or know any other boys, please contact your Head of House/House Mother to see if their buddy can spend some more time with them or if they can arrange an older boy who has outgrown their homesickness to give him some extra support. Recovered homesick boys are often the best resource as most will have more compassion and empathy than a boy that has not experienced homesickness.

Homesickness support for parents

Reach out for support when you need it and please don’t ever feel you have to get through this on your own, it is rough!

Make your Head of House/House Mother aware that you and your son are struggling with homesickness so that they can offer more support (often boys do a great job of hiding how they are feeling so it may not be obvious that they are homesick).

Reach out to the BPSG House Representative and/ or the President so they can offer support and encouragement and perhaps put you in contact with other parents doing it tough or who have survived it and come out the other side.

Try and meet your son’s friends’ parents and get to know them, often they will become great allies and you will support each other on your boarding journey.

Attending the School’s social functions is a great way to meet people and grow your TGS network.

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