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Boarding School Dilemma

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: What do you think about sending kids to boarding school? My son gets very depressed at the idea. He promises to do good at public high school, but I have heard it before. His grandmother is the one that came up with the idea. She thinks he will do better at a private school. All he wants is a trial period to prove to me that he can make the grades at the public school. What do you suggest I do? And what do you think of boarding schools?

A: I have no generalized opinion on boarding schools. I know youngsters who have flourished in them and others who were poorly served by attending them. The "fit" between school and child has to be right for the experience to be rewarding. My guess is that your son sees his grandmother's suggestion as punishment for not living up to your academic expectations.

He's upset and scared that his present social life will end and that he might not measure up at this school either. There is considerable emotional strain connected to his beginning high school in a boarding school, apart from all that has been familiar to him. I think you and he (don't include grandma in this decision-making process) should sit down and have a few serious discussions about what he wants to do regarding his high school education and why.

You need to be honest with him regarding why you are considering sending him to boarding school. Be aware that you have probably amply communicated your disappointment in him over the years. Perhaps the discussions should include brainstorming ways he could feel more motivated and competent in school. Simply going over what he hasn't done in the past and blaming him for it will be most destructive. What harm would there be with your supporting him and believing in him as he is asking you to do? I know many parents send their kids off to boarding schools with the "Marine-like" notion that the boarding school will "straighten out" their child. That is probably how he's interpreting this. Give me an update on your decision and the contract you two work out.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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