Are you a global working parent who has a child in boarding school? If so, there can be some very valuable things to keep in mind as you journey through the numerous good-byes, packing, vacations you have with your child, tears shed, and the stories he/she bring back from school and the list goes on. Take the following pointers for what they are: simple advice coming from a missionary kid (MK) who has experienced the joys and turmoil of boarding school; who has witnessed firsthand some things to do, and not to do; who has been a dorm parent to 9th and 10th grade girls; and who still serves in the setting of a MK boarding school.
Perhaps an explanation is due for why I feel the following ideas are important to keep in mind. I feel some parents walk into this venture called boarding school with good intentions but don’t know exactly how to proceed. They love their children, yet grope for the best way to respond to the separation forced by boarding school.
1) Be positive about this new step in your child’s life. The attitude toward boarding school that a parent possesses and exhibits has incredible impact on the posture a child will take toward the whole venture. This doesn’t mean you cannot show your pain. On the contrary! Show your tears and the reality of the pain of separation, and yet also encourage your child to embrace the opportunities for growth that reside at boarding school.
2) Get to know the adults caring for your child. This is easier in some situations than others. Whatever your situation, talk with and get to know the adults caring for your child. As a dorm mom, it saddened me when parents would drop off their daughter without so much as a hello to me. You have valuable information about the life and personality of your child that can be instrumental in allowing a dorm parent or teacher to successfully love your child, better teach him/her, and know how best to relate to him/her.
3) Make memories during vacations. I attended Rift Valley Academy for 2 ½ years and cannot say enough about the memories that my parents intentionally made happen during the months of vacation that I had with them. When I went home for vacation I knew that awaiting me would be a new adventure my family would do together. The stories and memories I experienced during those events, I still tell today. But even more than the memories, those trips provided time with my parents – intentional time.
4) Plan to go and see where your child attends school. I feel it is important to visit your child while they are in session at least once or twice a year. This gives you the unique opportunity to actually meet those caring for your child. It also gives you the opportunity to plan a visit around a significant event in your child’s life. Are they in a drama production? Do they have a big game coming up? Do they have a solo in the choir concert? This also gives you the opportunity to meet their friends, stay in the dorm, walk where they walk, do what they do, and go to their classes. This will only enhance your understanding of your child and open potential lines of communication between child and parent.
5) Involve your child in your ministry. I feel there are many opportunities for allowing your kids to find ownership in the very ministries where you work so hard. I experienced ownership of the ministries my parents have given their lives toward, and it has forever affected my heart toward global work. I learned global work by doing it and you as a parent, also have countless opportunities to show global work to your kids by involving them in the nitty gritty activities of your ministry.
Again, I give the above suggestions for what they are – suggestions. I hope these have spurred on some creative ideas for how to handle the separation that boarding school brings.