It probably feels like five minutes ago that you were waving goodbye to your little one as they started reception, and now, here they are, off on their own on a residential trip!
It’s a worrying time for parents, and naturally a time when parents stress how their children will cope away from home (and how they will cope without their children!)
Most schools offer a one-night residential for children at the start of Key Stage 2, and a longer trip during Year 6 but every school is different and it largely depends on funding.
Does my child have to go on a residential trip?
In 2010, the Department for Children, Schools and Families called for educational visits to become part of the National Curriculum, but there’s currently no obligation for schools to offer trips – or for your child to go. But before you decline the schools invitation to attend the trip in favour of keeping your child at home, think of all the benefits for your child.
Residential trips provide experiences that schools and home just can’t offer. Experiences such as canoeing, caving and abseiling. There’s a real team feel to these trips and a time for growing and encouraging friendships, confidence and independence.
What if my child doesn’t want to go?
Most kids get homesick, it’s totally natural to miss home but this shouldn’t be a reason to stop going on a really great trip with their friends. In fact – a little time away can actually help those who struggle being away from their family.
Remember, it’s not as if they are off somewhere with strangers, they’ll be with teachers they spend most of their time with each week, and friends who they like to spend time with. Remind your child of this if they express doubts about the trip.
Talk to your child in the run up to the school trip. Talk about how they are feeling and go through any worries or concerns they have.
If they are feeling anxious about being away from home, tell them you’ll send them along with a few home comforts such as a little note, a photo, and spray their sleeping bag with a little of your perfume or aftershave to make them feel reassured and remind them of home.
Some children worry about taking their favourite teddies through fear of getting teased, especially in year 6, but be reassured – many other children will take their favourite teddy too, so if it makes them feel better about going away – let them take it!
I’m worried about the cost!
most schools subside trips so that the final bill isn’t too expensive. Schools are allowed to charge for board and lodgings for residential trips and this is what the majority of the cost goes on, as well as travel getting to there and back. Schools can’t actually charge for activities during school hours, but most will request a ‘voluntary contribution’ of anything from a few pounds for a local daytrip up to hundreds for a residential visit.
If you really can’t afford to pay, write or speak to the headteacher who will help you. Some schools have a limited amount of fully paid places for families who are really struggling financially.
What if I’m struggling to let go?
The first night out without your baby, the first day of nursery, the first day of school, parenting is a rollercoaster of emotions over the years, and it is totally natural to miss your child and worry about how they are coping without you.
Having said that, it is so important to put on a brave face and not let them see you upset when you leave them. Hold it together until they leave, then go and sob into a coffee and large slice of cake with the other parents who will be feeling exactly the same.
If you think you’ll crumble when you wave them off on the coach, see if a friend or family member can do the drop off instead.
Can I keep in touch while they’re away?
Many schools prefer children not to phone home as it can make the homesickness worse. Many schools will post photos on private groups of the children having fun – this is a nice way of feeling in contact and knowing all is well.
Try not to worry – the school will contact you if anything is wrong, and you will be given a number to contact incase anything is an issue at home. try to let your child go and have a wonderful time without calling every five minutes. Independence is a wonderful thing and a valuable life skill. It really installs so much confidence to have time away on their own with their friends.
Finally, if you have any real worries or concerns regarding your schools residential trip or day trip, get in touch with the headteacher or organiser of the trip who will be happy to discuss things with you.