For Families: How to Help Your Student Adjust to Boarding School
There is an unmistakable heavy sigh most families release as they drive away from campus after saying goodbye to their student. You know the separation is coming, but that does not make it any better. If you are a parent or guardian who’s new to the boarding-school world, it is hard to know what to expect in these first couple of weeks and months.
As they settle into life at school, your student will discover new independence, but you are likely still the safest place to which they will turn. Try to keep thinking about all the ways you can support them through your interactions and your overall relationship.
If you get that late-night phone call or text proclaiming intense anxiety, homesickness, desperation about social issues or status, loneliness, or isolation — remember it’s normal. These emotions pass, especially with your help. You serve as a place where your student can unload. They might not feel comfortable enough to do that with the adults supporting them on campus — yet. It’s still early.
In these moments, it is best to listen to their complaints, concerns, and worries. Just listen. When you listen, your student accesses inner resources. Pay attention to the rhythm of the conversation and, when they calm down, ask them how they think the problem might be solved. Try not to solve the problem for them. It’s important that they figure out how to solve problems for themselves.
After students unload, they are usually able to adjust to the situation. They will most likely prove to be resilient. If they do not, their advisor and other faculty in the dorm are great people to talk to. Suggest that to your student. Homesickness is real and happens all the time, and it usually passes. Prolonged homesickness might call for different measures, but homesickness through October or early November is common and not a bad thing.
The best thing you can do for your student in these first few weeks is encourage new activities and friendships. Try to avoid being in constant contact with them. The more they are talking with and writing to you, the less they are transitioning to the NMH community and establishing themselves as NMH students. Encourage your student to seek out and connect with adults in the community who can help guide students as they learn about independence. They also will receive sound advice from their Resident Leaders, as well as their dorm faculty, teachers, and advisors. Every NMH student is surrounded by a network of compassionate adult mentors — it’s what we call our Partnership of 12. Please don’t worry; your students will experience growth and resilience, they will have good times with good people, and they will learn who they are in the school community and the world.
Your student’s advisor is your primary point of contact with the school and should always be the first person you contact with questions or concerns. To locate your student’s advisor, log into NMH Connect. Click on your student’s name in the upper left. On your student’s “Progress” tab, scroll down past “Performance” and “Courses” to “Advisory.” There you will find your student’s advisor and their contact information.
General questions about a student’s experience as well as academic issues should be directed to the advisor.
Special permission requests, travel-related questions, or any other residential/student life permissions should be directed to the dean of students office.
Here is a list of school contacts.
For Students: 10 Tips from Resident Leaders on Being a Good Roommate
For many boarding students, one of the main points of transition may be adjusting to your new roommate and your dorm. Here are the top 10 tips from NMH Resident Leaders to help in your transition to sharing a living space.
Be yourself. It’s only natural to be excited and a little nervous when you meet your roommate and their family. Relax. They’re probably a little nervous too! Don’t worry about trying to be cool or impress them. Smile, say hello, and just be yourself.
Be considerate. When you arrive, if you can, wait until your roommate arrives to make decisions about which side of the room you take, how the furniture will be arranged, whether beds are bunked or not etc. Remember, you are both living in this space, so both of you have a right to be comfortable.
Don’t judge a book by its cover. First impressions are just that. People might not be 100 percent themselves on the first day as they ease into a new environment. It takes a while to really get to know someone, so show interest in your roommate. Ask questions about them and their families. What they like to do, etc.
Embrace diversity. Remember, not everyone will be like you. We hope that part of the reason you chose NMH was because of its longstanding commitment to diversity. We have students from all over the country and all over the world, so chances are, your roommate will be from a different background, different state, or different country. Challenge whatever assumptions you might have and use this as an opportunity to learn more about a different culture and way of life.
Be flexible. Be honest about your living needs, but be flexible. You must be willing to compromise when sharing a space. Ask yourself, what things do you really need, and what things you are willing to budge on. Remember, you’re going to be living with this person all year.
Be kind. Some people have an easier time starting a new school than others. If your roommate is having a hard time, try helping them out. Talk to them. Invite them with you when you do things. Sometimes we all need a little encouragement.
Talk TO your roommate, not ABOUT them. When something is bothering you, calmly talk to your roommate about it. It’s tempting to talk to your friends, but gossip and rumors can get started this way. Remember, your roommate isn’t a mind reader, so they won’t know there is a concern (and can’t help fix it) if you don’t tell them.
Branch out. Get to know your roommate, but don’t spend all of your time with them. You will spend lots of time with them in the room over the course of the year, so make sure to do separate things and make other friends as well. The time apart will give you something to talk about when you are together, and meeting each other’s friends means you will know twice as many people.
Ask, don’t assume. Make a plan about what items you are okay sharing, and which items you want to keep private. Never assume you can use or borrow any of your roommate belongings without permission. Whenever in doubt, it’s always better to ask.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Living with someone can be a lot of fun, but can be challenging at times. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Talk to your advisor, dorm parents, and Resident Leaders for advice. They are there to help!
Remember, having a roommate will be fun if you approach it with positivity and an open mind.