RESPONDING TO YOUR SON'S FEARS
What it really means: New school jitters are universal. Add the element of living at school and the jitters are compounded dramatically. Chances are your teenagers will reach out for assurance from you just before it's time to leave for school or during the first few weeks after school has started.
How You Can Help: Being a good listener is always important. Cheerful notes and reminders are usually well received, and a supportive atmosphere at home should keep things on an even keel. Making the transition to a new school offers both risks and opportunities.
Leaving family and friends, arriving at a new school, and adjusting to a new way of life can be scary. You can help by emphasizing the opportunities and reminding your son that growth can occur in accepting risks and meeting the challenges in a new situation.
Special family dinners, shopping together for school items, and just talking about Carson Long and the excitement of joining a new community can be reassuring.
Perhaps planning a "back to school" party with old and new friends, if they are in the area, would work for you. A positive, enthusiastic attitude will help your cadet start off on the right foot at Carson Long.
What It Really Means: Even the most self-confident teenager worries about being liked. For the boy who has moved away, even temporarily, from the comfortable familiarity of family and neighborhood friends, popularity is an important issue.
For those cadets who live at Carson Long, their new friends now also serve as a family. Feeling a part of the community is very important; fearing they won't fit in is natural at first. Even returning cadets have this fear.
How You Can Help: Acknowledge the need to feel accepted and listen to your cadet's concerns. Being new is a scary experience. Suggest that your cadet give the situation a little time and consider sharing the concern with the cadet's teacher or s classmate. After all, everyone at Carson Long was new once and just hearing this from a peer may give your cadet that important feeling of connection.
What It Really Means: It requires effort and patience to learn to live with 25 or 30 other people. While your cadet will enjoy making new friends, some of the stress or close communal living may be difficult at first. Cadets may initially find it difficult to accept living by rules established for safe and effective community living.
How You Can Help: Encourage your cadet to look for the best in other people and new situations. Tolerance of differences for the way things are done and the way people behave, along with the realization that there is rarely, if ever, only one "right" way, will make life at Carson Long more enjoyable and interesting.
At the same time, suggest your cadet find some "time out" minutes and places to escape group life to spend some needed energy on himself. It is good and sometimes necessary to rejuvenate the social aspects of one's personality in solitude.
What It Really Means: Your cadet wants you to be involved, to know how he is doing – good or bad. He wants your support and understanding.
How You Can Help: Be involved and participate. Attend Parent-Teacher Conferences on Family Weekend, parades, athletic events, and similar events, as your time permits. Contact teachers or other staff if you have questions or concerns. You are always welcome on campus to support your cadet and Carson Long.
What It Really Means: Homesickness tries even the most experienced boarding cadet at times during the year. It comes, but mostly it goes and should be looked upon as a positive and natural response. Your son misses loved ones and home and would like to touch base from time to time with what is familiar.
How You Can Help: First, never let your cadet's homesickness make you feel guilty. Every family situation is unique, yet there are some factors which are common to us all. In deciding to seek the best education possible for your son in a somewhat somewhere different format, your family's horizons have been stretched.
Perhaps the key to making the independent school experience positive is ensuring that we constantly perceive it in this framework. Parents who operate out of a feeling of love will be free to set reasonable limits on cadet spending, on permission guidelines, and on phone calls.
The second step in dealing with homesickness is to take time to listen to your cadet and provide ample reassurance of your love. Emphasize that feelings of homesickness are natural and will pass. Encourage conversations about what is especially enjoyable at Carson Long.
Emphasize the positive! Letters are wonderful, photos are welcome bonus, and surprise "care" packages are invaluable boosters. Keep in touch with your son, his faculty officers, and his advisor.
What It Really Means: If being a member of a new school family is an adventure for your son, just think of what it's like to be a surrogate Mom or Dad! It's no small task.
The faculty will have to handle your cadet's growing pains just as you do at home. We will be required to say "no" on occasion and then face the inevitable resentment and anger. While there will be times the cadet won't believe it, the faculty always have his best interest at heart.
We want cadets to grow up to be strong and independent, but we want them to do so safely and in a way that has a positive impact on the functioning of the entire Carson Long community.
How You Can Help: You are and always should be your son's advocate, but you can help the faculty help your son by conveying an understanding of the staff's position as authority figures. Your appreciation of the responsibility the faculty has to your son and to you will pave the way for a strong and beneficial relationship in the "in loco parentis" situation.
What It Really Means: The cadets who make the best adjustment to Carson Long and to the challenges of the rigorous college preparatory program are those who accept Carson Long as their second home.
To be happy here, they must first be involved. Involvement develops friendships as quickly as it develops a positive self-image, and it is the best way to stay busy and happy.
How You Can Help: Encourage your son to be a participant, instead of only an observer. Participation will make your son a more integral part of the community, which will be reflected in a stronger sense of belonging and self-esteem. While Carson Long stresses the importance of academics, we hope you will encourage extra-curricular participation even if you see average academic progress.
Cadets need to feel positive about themselves in many arenas and academic success often follows success in other areas. Please communicate with us, however, if you see conflicts between extra-curricular activities and academics. You can strengthen this bonding by becoming involved with Carson Long as well.
Mark special events and attend Carson Long functions, read the newsletter, be active in the Parents Association. Your presence is important to us, and you are always welcome.
What It Really Means: The ups and downs of daily life continue at boarding school just as they would be at home. Cyclical swings in moods are affected as much by adjustments to a new situation as they are by the weather or academic and extra-curricular schedules.
From November through March, the days are shorter, colder, and often wetter and the academic challenges are generally at their peak – a combination that can feed cabin fever and blue moods. Mood swings are also common around holidays, when cadets are happy to be going home but anxious about it at the same time.
How You Can Help: Remember key times when mood swings are probable:
- The first few weeks of school, particularly when everything is new.
- Immediately before a grading period ends when the reality of a grade report is just around the corner.
- The beginning of a new term when it can look like there is no end in sight.
- Exam weeks as cadets learn to deal with the demands of the testing situation.