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Tips for a Happy Boarding Experience

The start of term is nearly here and for many it will bring the beginning of a very different routine if your child is starting to board full time. If as a parent you have never experienced boarding before it can be a daunting experience and may be making both you and your child feel apprehensive. Luxe in the Country spoke to Tom Chapman, Cheam’s popular House Master to ask what we can do as parents and the benefits boarding can bring.

Is there any preparation a child or parent can do before the first boarding night?

We would recommend that parents are themselves very positive and encourage the children to be positive too, focusing on how they will enjoy their time in the Boarding House and reminding them to first and foremost ‘have fun’. Boarding is a wonderful opportunity to make new and deep friendships and the experience is invaluable for those looking to board at Senior School. As well as enabling children to make new friends, it gives children independence, the freedom to be themselves and to experience activities and opportunities which they would not necessarily be able to have at home.

Are there any items you recommend packing? Which should we leave at home?

We suggest that children bring in home comforts: a teddy, blanket or their own duvet and pillow. Our weekly boarders often bring in photos of home, family and pets which they then use to decorate around their bed area. Our dorms and boarding floors are currently undergoing a huge makeover with thanks to a local mural artist to make them feel as homely as possible. We want our boarders to feel at home from the moment they step foot inside so they can relax and unwind after a busy day.

woman in blue shirt talking to a young man in white shirt

Any tips for parents to reassure a nervous child before the start of term?

It is useful to talk to your children about all the benefits before they start and to talk through any questions and concerns, they might have and of course contact the Boarding staff to let them know if there are any questions or wobbles which are completely normal. We offer ‘taster nights’ to year groups to enable children to experience boarding ahead of committing to regular boarding.

What to expect on the first night?

All children are assigned a ‘Boarding Buddy’ at Cheam a day or two before they start boarding – a child who already has experience of boarding. Along with highly experienced Boarding staff, the Buddy will look after them on their first few nights. Keeping busy, joining in with the activities and events on offer and throwing themselves into the busy life of the boarding community is the best medicine for settling in.

What happens if a child is homesick?

We have a wonderful team of Boarding Tutors, matrons and senior Boarding staff who are always available to the children should they feel a little overwhelmed. Homesickness is very normal, especially in the early days and we are very experienced in dealing with this and helping them to overcome it and thrive when boarding.

What do boarders enjoy the most about boarding?

Our boarders love being with their friends in a less restrictive environment, outside of the normal school day hours. They embrace evening activities and enjoy being able to share a dorm with their friends, perhaps friends they may not be in the same class with. It is an exceptionally friendly and homely Boarding House and we believe our Boarding Parties and the entertainment we provide for the children in the evenings is exceptionally good. We have a superb range of activities and events on offer throughout the year for all the boarders. Our youngest boarders follow the JFG programme (Junior Fun & Games) which includes anything from indoor Laser Tag games, Human Hungry Hippos, Extreme Dodgeball and the Quidditch World Cup! Activities play a huge part in ‘motivating’ children to board and we are very proud of the activities we offer in the evenings at Cheam. Please follow @CheamBoarding to see everything that we get up to!

Benefits of boarding

Children become more independent and more confident through boarding. Equally, there are benefits for parents too, who appreciate that their children learn how to look after themselves, such as learning to make a bed in the morning and managing their time better. As well as it being enormous fun, children learn many life skills in the Boarding House such as learning how to live together and to cooperate with each other, these are skills which will stand them in good stead for the future. Being away from home also helps prepare the children for the next step, especially if that step is moving onto a boarding Senior School. The experience creates a more resilient, independent, confident and well-rounded child. Having prep boarding ‘under their belt’, will make a big difference for those first few weeks and months at their Senior School.

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