[An audio version of this article is available on the Pondering Purple podcast, which you can access by clicking HERE. Note that it does not contain the full selection of quotes from TCKs available in this written format.]



In Part One of this series (Making the Decision), we centered the TCK in our exploration of the factors that seem to influence thriving or struggling in a boarding environment.

In Part Two, we’ll explore just as broad a topic, this one centered on how parents of TCKs can help their families to intentionally approach the transition to boarding school, then find a way to maintain communication and connection as they parent long-distance.

As with everything written on the topic of boarding schools, I cannot speak in absolutes. These are broad ideas and concepts intended to guide families toward a healthier boarding experience, not a multi-point equation that guarantees results if followed precisely. Every family, every parent, every child, and every boarding school will add its own unique elements to the process.

My goal in this second installment of the series is to outline some of the considerations easily missed in the often chaotic on-ramp to such a monumental transition. I’ll sprinkle in plenty of quotes from TCKs and TCK parents, submitted as responses to two informal surveys I ran in preparation for this series.

To frame the recommendations I’m going to offer here, let’s begin by looking at some of the reasons families had for choosing boarding school. These are the rationales that came up most often in the survey.

[…] in our host country, students were constantly berated and demoralized. And with no other homeschooling families, they wouldn’t have the socializing benefit of school if we went that route. –Liz

The kids needed to prepare for eventual return to their home country and I did not want them to be way behind socially.–Dawn C

Avoiding some of the “traps” (beliefs, undercurrents, worldview…) that we saw in the French educational system. –MK Mom in France

They weren’t thriving isolated in rural Africa and needed more social, emotional, spiritual, and educational support. –Anon

A desire for them to have exposure to their passport culture before being completely independent and the isolation of our place of service. –Matt

Input into spiritual and social development. Extra-curriculars. –Melissa

Parents were quick to point out the benefits of the boarding experience for their children.

Deep, lasting Christian friendships & inclusion in Christian community in their heart language/culture. –Joy

They learned to manage their schedules, community life, life responsibilities independently. –M

Being influenced by “a village” of adults – with differing ways of expressing faith, different opinions than ours on a variety of topics….it broadened their horizons. –MK Mom in France

Being taught by people who genuinely cared for them as individuals and had sacrificed much to be there. –Betsy

Making friends from all over the world, and getting a quality education. –WQ

They had opportunities to be involved in extracurricular activities like sports and drama that were significant to their growth and development. M

They have built world-wide networks of friends, many of which have lasted into adulthood. –MK Mom in France

But parents also reported that it wasn’t all easy.

This is the reality of the boarding decision—for every important wonderful, there is often an accompanying hard.

Several parents shared about this difficult duality:

For my children it was a place I watched them flourish and grow spiritually, relationally, emotionally, and educationally. There were countless losses and sacrifices, but for our family they were worth it. –Anon

It was the best choice we had available at the time and it was good for them, but the cost was way higher than I knew at the time and I regret not doing more to mitigate that. –Joy

It is different for each child. One of ours had the best experience of their life at boarding school, while the other was scarred for life. –Liz

TCKs too see the tension between the wonderful and the hard:

Even those of us who thrived still had to work through stuff after, as even the loss of the boarding school culture after graduation was so significant, not to mention the often unresolved grief of a confusing identity that can take a long time to piece together. I believe it’s still worth the trade-off for my growing up experiences. Others may or may not. –Julia

The losses, of course, are inevitable. As are some of the transitional pangs you can expect in a move from living at home to studying at a distance from home. It would be foolish to assume that any teen could make that leap without a period of difficulty.

But the risks of boarding school distress can be mitigated. The first line of defense is what I discussed in the previous article in this series—making sure that your child is the right candidate for boarding school and that the boarding school you choose will meet his/her needs.

The second line of defense will be the advance work you’re able to put in. That’s the goal of this article—to equip you, as parents, to understand the complexity of this transition, to prepare your TCK for the changes ahead, and to enter knowledgeably into the ongoing, long-distance parent-child relationship that will follow.



I’ve written fairly extensively on transitions, mostly in the context of a family moving as a unit from one place to another. The uniqueness of this transition, however, is that part of the family will be moving, but the rest will be staying home. There’s something destabilizing about that, as the emotions and processing of those who stay will be different from the emotions and processing of those who leave. That means that the needs of each party will likely be different too.

Another complicating factor of this transition is that it isn’t a forever thing. Your child will still be returning home during breaks. He isn’t leaving for good. She’s isn’t saying permanent goodbyes. But the fact is, departure for boarding school marks the end of an era, and though your TCK will return, the current dynamics of your family will likely never be quite the same.

There’s something to be mourned in what will be lost, just as there is something to be celebrated in what will be gained.

Finding a way to navigate this complicated landscape will require both attention and intention.

My recommendation is that you center the TCK who is leaving home as you implement some of these suggestions for transition. They’re based on an article I wrote a couple years ago, which you can read here.

This plan has five steps and follows the acronym of P.E.A.C.E –

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27

P — Plan

This planning stage might feel tedious. It’s also a sanity-saver. You’ll want to put your heads together and make practical to-do lists. Then take those lists to a calendar and figure out a timeline to get them accomplished well enough in advance of the beginning of the school year to minimize you and your TCK’s stress.

When is the final paperwork for school due? What’s the best way to manage banking and an allowance for your child at boarding school? Can you fit in a fun family vacation before the school year begins? What’s the best timing for your first-day-of-school trip?

And then there’s the packing process. You know how slow or fast (how conscientious or haphazard) your child’s packing will be. Leave lots of time for that—and even break it down into phases, if that would help.

The third step in this transition plan will give you further items to enter into your pre-move planning calendar.


E — Eliminate Conflicts

I mentioned this in the last article and will repeat it here: if your family is struggling or your relationships are strained, boarding school will not smooth things over.

It may hide the tension. It may put off the next blow-up. It may even de-escalate things for a while. But if there is conflict, distrust, or bitterness in your family, it simply must be addressed and healing sought well in advance of a child going off to boarding school.

But this isn’t just about family members. The conflicts in your TCK’s life could be with friends, members of your community, or others.

In the craziness of a major move, we often don’t realize how crucial it is to invest intentionally in repairing broken or wounded friendships—but those “loose strings” are something you don’t want your child to drag into the throes of adaptation to a new place, a new educational context, and a new community.

So help your TCK be intentional in acknowledging and seeking resolution (as much as possible) for any existing conflict.


A — Acknowledge People, Places, Foods, Customsand anything else your TCK has loved in the universe he/she is leaving

This is my favorite step of transition! Of course, it is! It gives us permission to indulge a little!

You may want to sit your TCK down at some point well in advance of departure, with a blank piece of paper, and write down a few headers—like people, places, foods, activities—and anything else that’s important.

Then use that calendar from the first step of this transitional plan to make sure your TCK gets back to the places that are important, the foods that are favorites, and the people who have been mainstays in his/her life—anything that is significant—as these “lasts” (even last-for-nows) will pave the way to some closure before a new beginning.


C — Create Space for Emotions

We can be so task-focused, right? This is particularly true in the throes of a massive transition! We revert to a “get ‘er done!” mentality that certainly gets ‘er done, but neglects other important aspects of a significant departure.

It’s okay to feel in the midst of transition. Scratch that—it is essential to feel in the midst of transition.

Creating space for emotions—for you as parents and for your TCKs—will require three P’sPermission, People and Processing time.

 Permission: Even with the hundreds of items staring at you from your to-do list, it’s okay to tell your TCK (or yourself!) that having a good cry is a healthy thing. Or that acknowledging being overwhelmed or anxious might prevent those emotions from coming out in less manageable ways. This is BIG stuff, and big emotions are warranted.

 People: Who do you or your TCK need to spent time with—who will understand what this feels like and be a supportive presence during this goodbye’ing phase? Plan that time into your lives as an act of self-care.

 Processing time: What do you need to pause or postpone on your calendar to give yourself the time to sit still and the breathing space you’ll need to fully experience this momentous transition—the joys and sorrows that are inevitable with a departure for boarding school?

Emotions stuffed down or ignored don’t go away. Giving them an outlet allows us to process in a healthy way. To be present. To remain connected to those who are leaving and those who are staying. And to move on with fewer regrets.


E — End Consciously

We have a beautiful example of how to end consciously in the way Jesus prepared for his death—not that anybody is dying here!

Think about His words and actions on that last evening in the Upper Room, surrounded by those he loved the most.

    • He allowed himself to grieve—he knew what was coming, he knew it was for good, and still he grieved.
    • He sought comfort from His father—an infinite source of compassion and presence.
    • He planned a final time with those closest to him. (It’s safe to assume that they didn’t just happen to wander into that Upper Room.)
    • He pointed them toward God and the future as he spoke with them.
    • He expressed His affection for each of them.
    • He continued to invest in others, though He knew His time on earth was ending, by washing their feet, preparing them for His death, and inspiring them for the future.

As trite as it may seem, when approaching a significant ending, we might be wise to ask, “What would Jesus do?” And then follow the example he set as his life was nearing its end—even if the ending we’re dealing with is just departure for boarding school!



You’ve probably already accumulated quite a bit of information about the school by this point in your journey. So now is the time to get into the nitty-gritty with your boarding student, looking at elements of the school that may need explaining or emphasizing. This could reduce some of the adjustment pangs that are inevitable during those first few months in a new living and learning environment.

At some point in the application process, you’ll have received a Student Handbook (or some equivalent document) from the school. Once you have that in hand, you’ll suddenly have a lot more information to process!

I highly recommend going through it together—page by page, as tedious as it may be!

(Pro-tip: topping this kind of thing off with an ice-cream outing makes the tediousness tolerable!)

Make sure your TCK understands what’s expected in the classroom, the residences, and beyond. Are the broad strokes of the way the school and dorms function clear? How about the rules they’ll need to live by? Even if students don’t get the reasoning behind those rules, are they committed to following them?

 Look at the school’s statement of faith together and make sure your TCK understands its basic tenets. If there are areas in which your family has theological disagreements with it, formulate those, but also suggest words and postures your TCK can take if those come up in Bible class or elsewhere. Talk through what he or she can do if strong debates—the kind that feature raised voices—arise on spiritual topics, which is more and more common in the areas of social justice and sexual identity.

 Look at the school calendar together and determine three things: when holidays and school breaks are, when your TCK will come home, and when you will visit him/her there. (More on that later).

There’s something reassuring not only about knowing that there will be breaks in the schedule, but about having a clear idea of the new rhythms life will take on. And for TCKs with a bit more trepidation about living away from home, being able to count down to mom and dad’s next visit will be a soothing thing.

 While looking at the school calendar, make note of the activities (field trips, away games, retreats) and make sure you know whether the cost of these outings is covered by your school payments or considered extra expenses.

I’ve seen too many students bow out of activities that would have been so good for them in so many ways because they didn’t want to ask their parents for the funds to cover them.

Make sure your boarding school students have money for school functions (buying banquet/play tickets, going to the movies, getting a bus pass) and some extra funds for getting a treat every so often.

 Talk about mono-cultural school dynamics. If the school’s adult population is predominantly from one culture (ie. at Black Forest Academy, most staff members were from North America), have conversations about how that will play out in staff expectations, beliefs, and behaviors.

TCKs do, by nature, have a tendency to harshly judge people who behave “mono-culturally,” whether it be in the limits of their world-awareness, their lack of instinctive understanding of some aspects of TCKs, their western-influenced biblical interpretations, or the cultural traits that are jarring in an international context.

Whatever you can do as a parent to foster understanding for these differences (a product of the single-culture many staff members were raised in) could significantly reduce some friction along the way.

 Have (painfully?) honest conversations about sex and sexuality. There—I said it! If you’re sending a teen off to school, this is your last chance to set a foundation of understanding and responsibility in this crucial area of human development. I’ve covered this much more thoroughly in my article titled, “Parents of MKs, Please Talk About Sex.”

Yes, Christian boarding schools are often populated with students who come from Christian homes. But trust me—there are no guarantees associated with that fact! Those Christian students are also humans. Teenaged humans. Humans whose sexuality is taking on much more complex dimensions in that age range. Humans who are woefully unprepared for a world in which sexuality is a defining feature—something conservative boarding school environments are not immune from.

Purity culture and sexuality were NOT handled well. The dean of women once came to one of the girls dorms and read a devotional that said you deserved to get raped if you wore immodest clothes. –Austin X

The teaching on sexuality TCKs will receive at boarding school will depend, year to year, on the adults of influence in your children’s life. It may be addressed in the classroom, in the dorms, in chapel, in church services, or in small groups. It may be shame-based or grace-based. It may accentuate guilt or elevate redemption. It may be predicated on rigid shoulds and shouldn’ts or couched as understanding anatomy and brain chemistry.

Your teenaged humans need to have their understanding of sexual longings and impulses instilled in them by those who love them most, a message grounded in God’s truth and his best plan for their flourishing—without spiritual manipulation, shame, disappointment, or disgust.

Keep the lines of communication open even after your TCK is off at school. Whatever you can do to ensure that your children can freely report to you what they hear on this topic will be so helpful in preventing any toxic messaging from anchoring in a lasting way.

 I can’t end this segment on preparing for boarding school without once again addressing the universal reality of abuse. There is no denying the tragic history of student abuse imprinted on the legacy of boarding schools.

Though we may want to think that modern safeguards, training, and oversight have eliminated the scourge of maltreatment and sexual assault, I can affirm that it still happens.

It may not be as systemically as in some places in the past, but even one soul crushed by this kind of violence is a universe of pain that cannot be erased and could bleed on for generations.

You need to talk about the reality and stratagem of abuse as a family. Not to scare your children, but to protect your children.

Discuss bullying, so they can recognize it. (It can get misrepresented in residential communities as mild hazing or “boys being rambunctious” …)

What crosses the line? What kind of touch or verbal sexualization is unacceptable? What is the meaning of consent and what should they do if their denial of consent is brushed aside? Is sexual abuse always violent? (Answer—in its most insidious form, it is not.) Even within a dating relationship, what is healthy and what is unhealthy, and is pressure to comply ever okay?

Please emphasize with your children that physical and emotional boundaries are good and healthy. They are not being selfish or self-centered by asking others to respect the limits they set. 

Here’s something else that may be important for your cross-cultural TCKs to think through: what kind of casual touch that is normal in your child’s culture might be misunderstood in the boarding school’s dominant culture? Clarity about this could prevent your own kids from having their motives and actions misunderstood.

Just as importantly, your kids need to know to trusts their instincts—if it feels wrong, it likely is wrong.

They need to know that it is not only acceptable, but good to say “no” to unwanted words and actions. And they need to feel empowered to tell you about it (knowing you will not turn on them or turn away from them) and to tell the appropriate school authorities about it. The school will ideally have reporting guidelines and channels in its Student Handbook. If you don’t find them there, contact the school in advance of arriving there and make sure you and your TCK know where to get help if it’s needed.

 Spiritual abuse is in some ways a more difficult form of maltreatment to identify. Scot McNight defines it as:

“A form of emotional and psychological abuse. It may include manipulation and exploitation, enforced accountability, censorship of decision making, requirements for secrecy and silence, coercion to conform, control through the use of sacred texts or teaching, requirement of obedience to the abuser, the suggestion that the abuser has a ‘divine’ position, isolation as a means of punishment, and superiority and elitism.”

Environments like Christian boarding schools, where there is an institutional hierarchy often tied to spiritual authority, can provide fertile soil for this kind of “abuse in the name of Jesus.”

Whatever you can do to arm your TCKs with a clearer understanding of what is healthy and unhealthy spiritual authority will serve them well, not only in their youth, but throughout their lives.

There are still young people—male and female—being submitted to physical, emotional, sexual, and spiritual abuse in our schools today. It comes from peers and leaders, and it thrives in the dark. Equipping your child to recognize it and denounce it will go a long way toward reducing his/her risk.



Though your TCK will be living under the care and supervision of residence staff, this will still—for most TCKs—be a sudden launching pad into independence. Even those who have been longing for it and will thrive may experience a few growing pains, at least initially.

Here are a few topics you may want to discuss together before school begins.

 Needs: Knowing their personal needs may be the greatest asset TCKs can have as they head to boarding school. And it can be a sanity-saving thing when living in community with others.

Help your boarding school-bound child to think through what would best set them up for flourishing.

How much sleep do they need to be their best selves? How much alone time? How much time spent in physical activity? What kinds of food give them energy and what kind of entertainment will give their brain a break?

I needed to figure out the difference between what I needed to do and what I needed to thrive. The former was regimented by guidelines and deadlines written into the calendar. The latter had to be determined by setting my own priorities and schedule. That’s the harder one! –Chris

If you can help your TCK to figure what needs are paramount to determining his/her quality of life at boarding school—then set up a strategy to at least partially meet them—this could be a huge advantage when entering this independent phase of life.

 Roommates: Whether your TCK has always had her own bedroom or shared a room with siblings from day one, moving into a residential setting where roommates are not family members may warrant some advanced thinking!

You know your kids better than most people do. What do you think will be areas of frustration or challenge for them as they live in residences away from home?

You may want to ask them how they feel about rooming with someone they don’t know. If they’ll be able to keep the room tidy for the sake of their roommate. What they’ll do if the roommate wants to stay up too late. How they’ll respond if they’re asked to do something they don’t want to do.

They’ll need to understand the importance of compromise in finding a middle-ground that both roommates can live with.

 Asking for help: Step into the mind of a 16-year old just starting boarding school. She’s left home for the first time, assuring her friends and family that she’ll be fine—she’s ready for the adventure and is going to do great. And in the first week at school, she discovers that her old educational system did math differently, she doesn’t understand how to submit assignments online, and she’s run out of cash for paying for incidentals.

Fresh off her assertions that she’s ready for the independent high life, it may be hard for her to admit that she needs help. And telling mom and dad, who have been cheering her on with variations on “You’re SO ready for this!” will feel like disappointing them.

During the months leading up to the beginning of school, do all you can as parents of your fledglings to instill in them a healthy appreciation for the value of asking for help! Foundering alone is not heroic—it’s self-defeating. And it only exacerbates already complicated emotions.

Seeking answers from those who have them will be a huge asset as they find their footing in new places.

Mental health: Mental health challenges at boarding school are not the norm, but they’re not rare either. If your TCK already has a diagnosis before attending, get all the professional help you need in determining whether this is really the right option for your son or daughter. Then make sure the school and residence staff are fully informed, and that regular check-ins are scheduled (even before school begins) with qualified therapists who can monitor the transition. Note that a school without therapists on staff may not be the safest place for a student with mental health challenges.

Even if your child has no known mental health struggles, be attuned to what you’re hearing when you talk and visit.

[My kids] didn’t have the emotional regulation skills or maturity to live independently. I watched at a distance as they struggled with their mental health & I felt powerless, as the gains outweighed the drawbacks. –Anon

Make sure your TCK knows that it’s essential to reach out to someone if they feel sadness or anxiety they can’t seem to shake. Explain to them that it isn’t weakness, but courage to reach out for help, and that struggling in this area is not evidence of lack of faith or resilience.

Be sure they know exactly who to call on campus and that they can ask their residence personnel or you to make that call for them.

24/7 hotline: That’s you. You’re the 24/7 hotline. Even if they wince when you tell them that you want to keep in close communication and even if they sound like they’d rather be anywhere else than talking to you on the phone, make sure you tell them as often as possible that you’re there for them whenever they need you. The time of day doesn’t matter. The severity of the issue doesn’t matter. If they need to talk to you, you’re there.

They may act like you’re being over-dramatic every time you tell them…but it will lodge something warm and safe in the independent cockles of their teenage hearts.



This is the part that tugs at my heartstrings even now—thirteen years after leaving the boarding school where I spent the first day of each academic year trying not to watch the families saying their goodbyes for the last time before Joe and Susie started classes, and mom and dad began their long trip home minus a member of their family.

What we all know about our international lives is this: goodbyes are hard. And goodbyes to our most dearly loved ones are the hardest.

If at all possible, plan on both parents being there for the beginning of school. I wouldn’t entrust this part of the boarding school experience to anyone outside of family because of its relational significance and transitional intensity. There is just so much to take in and manage and make sense of during those first days of a new life!

Before you book your travel, you may want to find out what the school’s policy is regarding parental presence. At Black Forest Academy, there was a designated time on that first day, after the opening ceremony was over, when parents were instructed to say their goodbyes. It would be helpful for you to be aware of that timing and plan accordingly. (Some parents did choose to stay just a little bit longer—and I suspect they were the ones who weren’t quite sure how their child would do. I’ll leave that up to your parental instincts to determine…)

There will be plenty to keep you busy in the days you’re there!

Helping your TCK to get settled in the residence will likely be a whirlwind. Plan on spending money—there’s no escaping it! There will be last-minute items that need to be purchased for the dorm room or for classes, plus maybe a fun item or two, just to mark the moment.

It might also be helpful for all of you to get acquainted with the layout of the school. If you already have a class schedule with locations listed, figure out which rooms your child will be studying in and the best way to get from one to the other during the day. This will reduce some of the stress of the first day of classes. You may also want to take the time to wander the neighborhoods around the school with your TCK to get familiar with the lay of the land or grab a meal together in a new-to-you place.

The school will probably organize this for you well before you get there, but if your TCK will be getting assistance in the ESL, Counseling, or Special Education departments, meeting the teachers and therapists who will be involved with that will be essential too.

You will have already shared so much in the application process, but one-on-one, “real world” conversations will allow both sides to fill in any gaps that remain and will allow further long-distance communication to be more personal.

If there are family friends or colleagues in town who may be a source of support or hospitality for your TCK, plan some time together to ease into further contact.

Most importantly, take this time to have a meaningful conversation with the dorm parents and other residence staff who will be caring for your TCK in the place that will become a home-away-from-home.

Make an effort to get to know or at least have a good long conversation with the dorm staff. Learn about their parenting philosophies and make sure you’re on the same page. –Jesse

Make sure you develop a healthy relationship with the dorm parents, that they understand your values for parenting, and your child-specific needs. –Becky

If you have questions or concerns you haven’t addressed yet, this is the time to voice them. But do bear in mind that residence staff will be interacting with dozens of parents during the orientation phase, so it might be wise and helpful to follow up with an email in which you reiterate what you discussed, so it can be filed away in case it’s needed down the road.

And when the time comes to actually say goodbye—as always, I encourage you to be authentic in your emotions, not to the extent that your child feels she has to parent you (!), but in a way that expresses your love and pride.

I’ve seen so many parents over the years attempt to be stoic as they hugged their TCK and got into their car, but that can inadvertently send the message that this is easy and doesn’t matter a whole lot.

As much as your child may not want to see your tears, your emotions will communicate how difficult this goodbye is for you—and give him/her permission to feel it too.

Make sure your parting words are affirming. You may even want to leave your child a note to be read later, when they’re missing home and missing you. Just make of this moment, if you can, something that is loving and profound.



The number of TCKs who suggested in the survey that parents make sure they give their TCKs an “out” was significant enough that I need to mention it here. Particularly if your child is still unsure about boarding school or his/her ability to thrive there, communicating that if it just doesn’t work they can always come home might be the balm that gets them through the rough patches during the adaptation phase.

Keep evaluating as time goes by in case a new decision needs to be considered. We considered each of our 3 children and their specific needs. Had we felt the need to change schools or ministries at any time during their schooling, we would have done so. –Melissa

Give them an out if they can’t handle it. “Try it for one semester, and if you can’t deal with it, you can come home and homeschool.” We said this to one of our kids but she ended up adapting and loving it. But knowing there’s an out helps them know you are not being cruel or whatever. –Dawn C

MKs like Bobbi and KI support this suggestion:

Boarding school is not a good fit for everyone, but your child may struggle to tell they’re struggling because they feel like a failure for not being able to handle it. –KI

My parents left the field partly because a sibling was struggling with boarding school and it was the best thing they could have done. Said sibling has had an amazing life and I think that made all the difference. –Bobbi

It will be up to you as parents to determine if a trial period would be best for your TCK—and how long that period will be. You don’t want that off-ramp to become an escape hatch your reluctant student will use to avoid even trying to fit into the new place.

My sense is that anything less than a semester may be too short. It’s easy for someone to “live above the surface” for a few months, never even trying to put down roots, if there’s an exit plan right around the corner.

A full semester or a full year would ensure that there is some amount of integration that happens before anyone pulls the plug.

With that recommendation, I’m obviously referring to the minor speed bumps that may occur at the beginning of a TCKs time at boarding school—missing home, adjusting to new educational methods, learning to live in a residence, losing some independence, and managing a slew of firsts.

If something serious happens, there is no predetermined timeline that should trump rescuing your child.

Whether it be a medical or mental crisis, an insurmountable conflict, an allegation of abuse, or some other urgent need—all I can say is drop everything and get there as quickly as you can. Long-term decisions can be made later, but first your TCK needs to know that there is nothing more important to you than being his/her parent. Getting there quickly if the situation warrants it—even if only in your child’s eyes—will speak volumes about your commitment and love.

And for those other, smaller speed bumps, as they report frustrations or concerns to you, you’ll need to determine whether urging them to find solutions or stepping in as a parent will be the best way forward. If you feel that your TCK can talk to the right people to resolve minor issues, that can be a great learning curve. If you feel that requiring that would only further exacerbate the distress, you can step into the gap as a concerned parent and mediate for them.


Long distance parenting seems to a learned skill set. And so many of the parents who responded to the survey listed regrets they have about their children’s boarding school years. I’d like to list a few of them here—as regrets, so often, can be our best guides.

I wish we had built more relationship with their peers/teachers/dorm parents so we could be more connected at a distance. –Anon

I wish I would have waited until they were older. –WQ

I wish we had visited more (prioritized family over ministry more) and fought harder for connection. –Joy

There are times when my husband and I regret not moving to the city so he wouldn’t have had to [be in the] dorm. –MaDonna

We wish we would have gone to more events our daughter’s first year and had a parent there at the break times between terms. –Matt

The feedback from parents was consistent and fell into two essential categories which I’ll list as their recommendation to you:


1. Communicate faithfully:

Set up a regular time when you plan to call, but also be willing to reschedule that appointment to accommodate school demands. Make sure your TCK knows that these conversations are a priority—and prove it by being consistent.

Parents and TCKs have great recommendations on this.

It can be tempting to “check out” when you are not on-site parenting…but keep on asking about their school activities, their dorm activities, their friends, their ups and downs, their sports. And make sure to leave room for them to express their sadnessmissing home, or wanting you to visit, etc. Don’t shame those feelings or make them feel like they shouldn’t feel those things. It’s important to embrace the hard parts of it along with the good aspects of it (for parents and kids). –MK Mom in France

Make sure they feel safe enough to tell you anything, and make sure they know that you will believe them, and advocate for them. –WQ

You may want to come into your conversations armed with questions that cannot be answered by a simple yes and no.

Follow the school’s social media pages and calendar so you can ask about events that have happened. Many schools now stream concerts and games—you can watch those too and have that much more to chat about when you call.

Dig a bit beneath the surface to learn your child’s feelings about what you’ve seen, his/her concerns, accomplishments, or general state of mind.

Keep good communication with them, so they know you love them deeply and your ministry is never more important than them. –Anne

Invite open and honest feedback about their experiences and then believe what they tell you. –Telba

Encourage them to find parental figures at school, a mentor, counsellor, or a senior, etc. –DD


2. Visit regularly—and make it a priority:

This may be the most crucial bit of advice I offer you for the post-drop-off era of your child’s boarding experience. The value of making trips to spend time with your TCK cannot be overstated.

We prioritized our kids and traveled every 3-4 weeks to spend time with them and be present for special events. –Melissa

Do your best to visit kids at school between breaks and hopefully to see at least one of their after-school events if possible. Be very intentional in the times you do get with the kids. –Matt

With each visit, you’ll learn more about the world your TCK lives in and be more connected to the people who populate it. Be there for the major milestones in your child’s life, even if it requires budgeting for the extra cost of travel and lodging.

I wish we had recognized the financial toll early enough to prepare/save/raise extra funds for trips to visit them. Joy

TCKs themselves emphasized the importance of visits:

Plan to visit at least once before graduation. Let them take you to their favorite restaurant. Watch them compete in a sport or watch a performance they have been practicing for. It was so meaningful to me when my mom visited once and watched me run a cross-country race. –Amber R.

And when your children return home for holidays or the summer break, make sure those days are not only memory-makers as a family, but also relationship-builders. Once again, parents who have been there before you express it best.

Make your family a priority. This is your first trust, your first calling. Make sure school breaks and visits really are quality time. –Joy

Have some “debriefing” when kids come home for vacation. Sharing experiences and questions is very important! What was fun, what was hurtful, and offer possible solutions… Listen carefully! Acknowledge pain! –SJM



There’s so much more I could write about preparing for boarding school and parenting after it begins. But again, covering it all would take volumes!

I do want to reiterate that sending a child to boarding school is a complex and complicated endeavor, and there are no simple instructions to make it smooth and easy. My hope is that some of what we’ve covered in these two articles will create a framework from which you’ll be able to take thoughtful steps forward, guided by prayer and buffered by God’s promises.


Just to lighten things up a bit, I’d once again like to end with honorable mention for one MK’s tongue-in-cheek response to the first survey question: What were the benefits of boarding school for you? These are the three things Dr. T said were most beneficial to him:

Being trained to evade authority on a regular basis.

Development of diplomatic skills when living with 39 other boys – skills that I now deploy daily as the Chief Medical Officer of three critical-access hospitals.

Being trained to think wayyyyyyy outside of the box – as in: creative interpretation of the student handbook.

I’m pretty sure Dr. T is a former student of mine…and I’m not in the least surprised that this dubious skill set has served him so well. 😀

Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions about your family’s specific circumstances. You can also easily schedule a Zoom conversation with me by clicking this link. (Note that there will be fewer Zoom options listed during months of the year when I’m traveling. Simply email me if none of the online time slots work for you.)



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