Homesickness and Students’ Mental Health in Boarding Schools

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By Swetha Sukumar

Posted on November 15, 2022


5 min read

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Homesickness and Students’ Mental Health in Boarding Schools

Parents have a variety of reasons for choosing regular schools or boarding schools for their children to educate. Since boarding schools are widely believed to foster discipline and growth in children, and have a history and track record of providing an excellent all-around education with good prospects of being accepted into a prestigious university, many parents choose them for their children.

Boarding schools are not just a place where students come to study but actually live. These schools are responsible to motivate, engage and energise students, while also acting as their guardians in the absence of their parents. Apart from academic knowledge, most boarding schools also focus on children’s’ all-around development including communication skills, physical fitness, creativity, problem-solving, and decision-making skills. Most boarding schools are situated outside of cities, where there is enough area for state-of-the-art facilities including art studios, swimming pools, well-equipped playgrounds, fitness centres, and other creative and athletic facilities. Due to this, students participate in extracurricular activities right on campus.

Boarding schools encourage students to carry out everyday chores, manage academic assignments, control monetary spending and monitor eating habits on their own, without relying on a family member. They become independent as a result, and it also fosters responsibility, maturity, and mindfulness in kids. Therefore, parents are taking the initiative to send children to boarding schools. But, when children who grow up at home with their parents from a young age are transferred to boarding schools, they feel insecure and homesick.

Homesickness is the over attachment to the house and surroundings that one has lived and grown up in over the years. This is especially seen in students who go through this kind of emotional state when they have to shift to a school, hostel or boarding school in another city. Homesickness can be a traumatic experience for a student because children are unable to disconnect from peers or school and come home at the end of the day to spend time in the home.  The main problems faced by a homesick child are restlessness, anger, moodiness, not eating and crying. And also they may develop depression and anxiety problems.

These types of problems can affect a child’s mental health. If the school atmosphere does not provide a positive environment for learning, it can impair their ability to concentrate and engage academically, socially and emotionally, resulting in mental health challenges. When schools support both academic success and mental health, students may feel safer at school.

When a child grows at home, their environment and family adjust themselves around the evolving personality of the child. At boarding school, however, the process is reversed. While the child learns skills to be independent and disciplined at boarding school, and appears to be well-adjusted, it’s merely a shield to protect the vulnerable self, which results in a cluster of symptoms called the “Boarding School Syndrome,”.

This is not a medical category, but a proposal that there is an identifiable cluster of learned behaviours and emotional states that may follow growing up in boarding school, which can lead to serious psychological distress. These can include depression, difficulties in forming relationships, and emotional numbness. 

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Boarding schools.


  • Independence and Self-reliance: Almost all boarding school children find that they are more independent and self-reliant. They solve daily problems themselves.
  • Confidence: As the children begin to do things, small and big, on their own, they will start building up more confidence in their own abilities. Boarding schools expose children to many activities like social service, art, drama, and carpentry amongst others. As they begin to find what they like and are good at, children will develop more confidence.
  • Discipline: Boarding students live a more regimented life than their peers. Learning discipline is important for children as it will help them achieve their goals.
  • Educational Excellence: Since children live on campus, they can find time to study whenever they want and find time to study with their peers. It helps them to learn difficult subjects.
  • Holistic Development: After school, students are also provided with co-curricular activities according to their interests. The specialty of such schools has the necessary facilities, like large playgrounds, etc.


  • Homesickness and Mental Health: Boarding schools are full of children but not being able to go home at the end of the day, spend time with their parents and relax in their room at home can cause a lot of psychological problems for children. At least some children feel homesick when they have to stay away from the home and surroundings, they grew up in.
  • Blending In: Boarding school is full of children and it isn’t necessary that the child will fit in. While some children immediately find some friends, certain children will have a tougher time.
  • Academic Pressure: With regular schools, children can leave the school and remove themselves from the pressure of excelling at studies. However, in a boarding school, the pressure is constant.
  • Other Risks: Some other risks include bullying which can be especially hard to weed out in boarding schools where children spend most of their time together.

Boarding schools have many advantages and disadvantages. A child can grow up more independent, disciplined and well-rounded after going to a boarding school, but it is the responsibility of the parents to mentally prepare the child for that change. Similarly, it is advisable to send children to boarding schools only after first talking to the management about any special needs the child may have. It is necessary to provide proper counselling to the school management so that being away from home does not affect the emotionally attached students mentally.