24 Comments

  1. Harri 26/03/2017 at 10:10 pm .

    Just want to say, 2 decades of therapy and a whole training as a therapist myself, this article totally, uncannily, hits the mark. Thank you. It affirms the experience and gives some fresh insights too.

  2. MomOfTwoLittleGirls 03/04/2017 at 3:39 pm .

    Just asking – are there any arguments FOR boarding? The brief I’ve read seems to be very one sided.

  3. MD 04/04/2017 at 8:02 am .

    An insightful article which resonates with my own experiences. Certainly boarding school divorced me from making any emotional attachments in general, although there were pre-existing causes for that as well. When I left at 16, I think I over-compensated by making an obsessive attachment to one or two people…

    So what can be done…. just years of therapy?

  4. Sue Davies 04/04/2017 at 10:48 am .

    It certainly hits the mark, I can remember in my early years of boarding school, sitting in our car as it sped towards town, with my tin trunk of clothes in the back and tears flowing down my face. It really did feel like abandonment, and on hindsight it tore my parents to pieces when they saw my tears – there was nothing they could do, we lived to far from town to make the daily school run. My issue was they could only get my eldest brother and myself into school for the first year as there was no space, and only on the second year did my twin sister and brother go as well. It felt as though they were the special ones.

  5. Moses 06/04/2017 at 1:17 pm .

    Very very true. I went to boarding school at 10 and ever since I have been this hard person (feedback from people I interact with) and even when I feel for someone, it is a major task to tell them how I feel. When I lost my dad ten years later, I felt the pain but could not even bring myself to cry. It has been 12 years. I always know that school killed something in me. Something that even makes me just say “sorry” when condoling a bereaved friend and nothing more!

  6. Munano 07/04/2017 at 6:46 am .

    That’s me right there. All of what I’ve been going through in one detailed article. I’m 31 and my life has been a very unpleasant one. I hated boarding school and I’d never have my kids go through my experience as a child. It’s wicked.

  7. Helena Shaw 21/05/2017 at 2:05 pm .

    I am so grateful to find this article. I was sent away at 6 and now in my late 30s I am starting to see how I have a very superficial bond with my mother. I have had several forms of counselling and am still taking medicine for depression after a break down several years ago. Now I just need to find a therapist local to me with experience of treating patients with Boarding School Syndrome.

  8. Cecilia 23/05/2017 at 7:08 pm .

    Yep rings true for me sent away at 10 “for my own good, how lucky was I ?”
    As soon as dependancy or emotional attachment nears I run away.

    The most successful period I had with a partner . . was when I had two men . .both called John as it happened. With one I had a spiritual/intellectual bond and spent hours talking, with the other a purely physical one . . .
    That way I wasn`t dependant on one !
    Not really a satisfactory long term solution though, eh ?

    I feel now only family can validate me, but do you think a therapist can really help you to value yourself ?

  9. Lynn 13/06/2017 at 7:07 am .

    I left for boarding school at 14. In another country and culture. I don’t do relationship follow- through well. For years I was ashamed of myself and knew everyone else was better than me. I cried alot without knowing why which in turn made me feel without value. I was suicidal and even wrote out my funeral service. I longed to just not be here anymore. Years into my adulthood, a friend introduced me to a magazine titled “Among Worlds”. It was writted by and for third culture kids. I cried through every issue, thankful that I was not the only person feeling the difficulty of fitting into and belonging to something or someone.
    I still don’t feel attachments. But I suspose that’s ok. I am a christian and look forward to one day being made whole again.

  10. OrganisedPauper 15/06/2017 at 8:18 pm .

    It doesn’t reflect my experience. I went to boarding school at the age of 8, but it was a free choice. I never had to stay there. I wasn’t made to.go. I was badly bullied & misunderstood in the state system. I got a grant for boarding school. I didn’t experience home sickness like some children did. My issues from boarding school are different from those listed. I liked school, until my teens. There was a lot of sexual pressure from boys in our mixed sex school, at the same time I was considered the ‘weird’ girl. It didn’t make any sense. I still liked the school itself, just not the other children. I’m definitely not emotionally numb.I have a very deep core of low self esteem, although I suspect I would have been even worse off in the state sector.

  11. Rory Holburn 02/08/2017 at 7:38 pm .

    As an ex boarder I certainly recognise some of the influences and pressures, but I would like to state that these are not always negative for all boarders. Some of these experiences, when complimented with a very strong family life in between, can be very positive and affirming. The family love is not missing but is enhanced in the moments when time is shared together and the time apart enables independent growth and development beyond the family alone.
    I had great and horrible times at boarding school, very much like life itself.
    I am always concerned that once something has a label it gets applied to everything. I pray that therapists do not hear “boarding school” and just assume negative. There is enough of that idiocy in day to day life already. Yes, they are not suited to all, but they also do work for many.

  12. Valerie Thomson 18/08/2017 at 2:52 pm .

    my husband went to boarding school at 11 always felt deprived of some home life…I went to boarding school at 14, loved almost every minute, I could be independent and had friends, (was on a farm so lonely at home.) I had resources I never had at home. I think a good boarding school can be a very good experience and a wonderful environment, especially in one’s teens. It is not always a negative experience.

  13. Tony 19/08/2017 at 2:54 pm .

    Boarding School let me down when I most needed the support, I was expelled for a robbery I did not commit, simply the malicious actions of a fee paying boy vs a naive scholarship boy.
    Money certainly talks
    My parents took the school’s side and disowned me
    16 years old and destitute, sleeping on newly made friends floors, hostels and squalid bedsits until I joined the Military
    Abandoned by the military after 12 years of service due to the end of the Cold War
    Issues with depression and a failure by the NHS in recent years to address my mental health issues they suggested I contacted the charity Combat Stress
    I haven’t been able to settle into a normal routine at work and have had numerous jobs since leaving the military in 1996
    I have a small circle of friends and if I feel my trust has been broken then there are no second chances
    My parents are no longer part of my life and neither is my sibling, I tried reconciliation some years ago only to realise that I would never receive their acceptance
    Back in a military environment in KSA at age 52 and very much on the outside here in regards to my coworkers as mental health issues are frowned on as LMF

  14. Cameron 05/11/2017 at 7:44 am .

    I also was sent to one of these appalling places at a young age. Parents mistake boarding schools as ‘ communities’ , which children and young people need as anyone does. But they are institutions, not communities .. just like prisons. One of the horrors is that young children have to form instant attachments , as they are pulled form their natural ones. These being non family authority figures, or other children. Children in these situations often retreat into fantasies or early addictive behavior – things that lead to addiction issues later in life, esp substance abuse. As an exboarding school person, and someone who has been in therapy for years and is now in treatment for substance abuse issues, I have found that so much of my dysfunctional thinking/behavior has its roots in the culture of being a child effectively being brought up in the institution as functioning as a surrogate parent . The only people they benefit are the most conformist type of children, who then go on in later later and repeat the institutional brainwashing, applying it to other institutions in later life.

  15. Ruth wilkinson 06/11/2017 at 3:37 pm .

    I can totally relate to this. I was sent away to boarding school when I was 5 till the age of 10. My parents gave me photographs of them but I couldn’t bear to look at them. I feel I did a life time of grieving in those early years and now have no emotions left.I cannot find anywhere inside me feelings of love nor do I feel sad at losing anyone whether it be death or just leaving. The exception is towards animals I can love them and be upset when I lose them. I do ‘t know if this is common.

  16. Lucy Carr 12/11/2017 at 11:11 am .

    The relief I felt when I read Joy’s book, was quickly replaced with total horror and overwhelming sadness. The relief was that finally I had found something which so eloquently taplkedvof how I felt, plus I briefly experienced a validation of my feelings. The horror and sadness came from the understanding of what I went through, that my feelings had been denied entirely all my life….labelled as an over sensitive/emotional or difficult child. The horror that I can’t have what I missed out on and so desperately crave, that I feel so damaged and different that I don’t feel I will ever find peace and acceptance. I have a wonderful therapist, who has shown me patience and kindness for 2 and a half years now. I can’t think of living without her in my life, yet I despise this neediness in me, and I am scared every day that she may walk away from me either intentionally or unintentionally. It is my own children(I love them fiercely and can never let them down)and my fear of failing that stop me from stepping out of this world. So the journey of life continues, with me keeping everyone and everything just that little bit separate from my being. I am sorry for all others who experience this despair, may you one day find some peace.

  17. sue 13/11/2017 at 7:31 am .

    What is so very sad is that whether we can see it or not, the damage was caused. I was sent away at 9, unable to speak to my parents for 3 months at a time, and unable to tell anyone how very lonely and sad I was. It has taken me over a decade of therapy to come to terms with some of the damage that being away at school caused. Recently, I heard a program about a kid with an attachment disorder and found myself crying – what he described was exactly what I had often felt. Being sent to boarding school was a brutal thing, no matter how often we were told “we’re doing this to give you the very best opportunities” and it is only with the help of an excellent therapist and treatment for depression that I find myself able to live a contented and productive life. If I had to say one thing to anyone having gone through the boarding school system it would be this: find yourself a therapist who can help, because you can become whole. I did, and I believe anyone can.

  18. Joe 90 05/01/2018 at 7:05 pm .

    At 54 years of age, suddenly 45 years of more or less across-the-board cr*p starts to make sense. Too many absolutely spot-on observations to itemise.

  19. Pamela Chedore 08/01/2018 at 2:30 am .

    I think that the article is too one-sided. I went to boarding school at ten, in a community where boarding school was considered normal and a privilege. There were good and bad times and I think it was a good preparation for life in general. I don’t suffer from depression, didn’t feel abandoned, and retained the same personality from before I went. Some children aren’t suited to boarding school – nor for that matter to competitive sports or high academics. I hope that all boarders are not now suspected of having been traumatized – of course the mental health community will only see those who were.

  20. Numbskull 08/03/2018 at 1:31 pm .

    Speaking personally, it seems that there are two possible outcomes from attending a boarding school, and they are not mutually exclusive.

    One is a resilience and determination combined with an understanding of the value of conformity, which can sometimes deliver professional success.

    The second is the development of a numb skull, frozen childish emotional development along with isolated and defensive thinking wrapped in a lifelong expectation of impending abandonment.

    Unfortunately the interplay between these two can cause difficulties not only for the ex-boarder, but also for many people around them.

    At work, issues of trust and authority can cause a mismatch between the boarding school children and the majority have not.

    Closer to home, another challenge is how to be a resourceful parent of children from the age of 10 upwards, having had no real experience of this, apart from prolonged institutionalisation.

    A third challenge comes in relation to caring for parents as they become infirm: love, duty, resentment all fight it out with a force which can be far too strong for such delicate circumstances.

    I’m coming to realise that the boarding school experience has probably damage the people around me more than myself.

  21. Samantha White 31/03/2018 at 10:44 am .

    I went to boarding school aged seven, with my sister who was three years my senior. Our parents had just had a bloody and messy violent divorce. We are both broken. She has bi-polar and has been on Lithium etc for decades. I just, just…. try and keep the tacking that is my dress in tact. Its falling apart at the seams of course.

    I thought my day had come when Dad said he could no longer afford to keep 4 kids in private school, by this time he had remarried and his new wife wanted her kids privately educated. Not at boarding school though, just the best day schools. So we were brought out and put back home, a home we didnt know. My mother had moved house three times by then. We only visited her new home in holidays so were unfamiliar with even the location or geography of the area. And didnt know any of the kids of our own age who had been brought up together.

    We were outsiders.

    I was forced to take an IQ test in Thetford because I hadnt ever sat an Eleven Plus exam. I really wanted to go to the Secondary Modern but my mother insisted I sit this IQ test to enable me to attend the Grammar School.

    I dont know much about public schools/private schools. But as a girl it was clear to me that when I went at age seven it wasnt to be groomed to go then onto a famous school like Eton or Harrow. We as girls were mainly taught embroidery, Latin, maths and gym. Plus of course DS – domestic science.

    It was a third rate boarding school even by the standards of the day. All manner of discarded kids washed up there. Some stayed some were put in there for one term never to return. I stayed at Overstone for about three years. I had been at St Andrews for three years before that. At least that was some stability.

    Boarding Schools at their worst are an excuse for the well off to dump their children. Once dumped in an institution that accepts them that legitimises the act of dumping your children “for their own good” and thus by paying for this you salve your own conscience as a parent.

    For every boy at Eton there are thousands more boys and girls at lesser public schools buying into this crap. When will it ever end? Its systemic abuse.

    Snobbery, my school thought hockey vulgar so we played lacrosse. Result? We had only three schools in the whole of the Uk to play against and all of them were too far away for the school to afford us to go and play against.

    Result? More isolation.

    Monsterous.

  22. Torn 05/04/2018 at 10:37 pm .

    I’m finding this reading fascinating, as well as the comments of those sharing here. My eleven year-old step daughter is working on achieving a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school around an hour’s drive away. She wants to board – even though day school is an available option. She claims she wants to board to be away from her mother, with whom her relationship is strained. With us, she has two solid parental figures and a younger brother with whom she has an excellent relationship. Transport would definitely be a huge challenge for us if she gets accepted. I’m wondering if allowing her to board with the option of changing to day school at her own choosing would negate negative effects? But we would much rather she live at home to have the security, guidance and support of a loving family. I don’t feel she is mature or equipped enough to bear the challenges of a life without a shoulder to cry on or genuine loving connection. She has grown up with two parents with mental illness, has been sheltered unnecessarily to a large degree I don’t think the distance would be beneficial. Yet the school seems an excellent fit for her and would give her huge academic advantages.

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