Should you send your child to boarding school?
Is boarding school right for your child? Source: Shutterstock

Private education is thriving. These days, there are myriad options for parents to choose from and boarding schools are among the most popular choices.

Parents have varying reasons for wanting to send their child to boarding school, such as a stellar academic reputation, good extracurricular activities and for their child to become independent and well-rounded.

Meanwhile, for some children, books such as Harry Potter, Enid Blyton and Malory Towers paint a rosy picture of being sent away to live and study. Combined with the school’s nifty facilities, these stories capture the minds of young people. Despite that, there are reports that suggest some children don’t cope well in a boarding school environment.  

Jungian psychoanalyst, Joy Schaverien, even coined the term “boarding school syndrome” to describe the lasting psychological effects of attending boarding school.

The syndrome identifies a cluster of symptoms and behaviours that those who grow up in boarding school may experience later on that can lead to psychological distress. These can include depression and difficulties forming relationships as the “loss” of their parents or guardians can be traumatic.

So, despite the availability of boarding schools – be it within Asia, the UK or North America – as well as some of their solid reputations in helping students enrol in Ivy Leagues and the like, how do you decide whether a boarding school will be right for you child?

Does your child have the ‘right’ personality for boarding school?

Speaking to The Swaddle, psychiatrist Dr Sagar Mundada explained that not all children grow to become more independent, disciplined and well-rounded after going to boarding school, as this also depends on their personality.

The Mumbai-based doctor said boarding school can be a good experience for children who are flexible and not highly sensitive, but less so for those who have a sensitive personality, in which case, the experience can be toxic.

“In a sensitive, isolated, emotionally scarred child, the chances of developing childhood depression, anxiety disorders, and social phobias are very high,” said Dr Mundada, adding that the child could also develop problems with substance abuse.

He also found from experience that children are often sent to boarding schools as their parents are not getting along, and so choose to distance their child from problems occurring at home.

“The kid could then feel guilty for causing problems, and see being sent to boarding school as a punishment, and not as a learning experience,” he said.

Ideally, the decision-making process should involve a medical health professional as parents are too emotionally involved with their child to make an objective decision.

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