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11 Tips for a Successful First Residential Trip

Posted on 08 May 2018

Between the ages nine and eleven, your child will probably embark on a school residential trip. These trips, which involve a couple of nights away, are considered a rite of passage and a way to introduce your child to various aspects of spending time away from home. Below are a few tips to help you and your child have a successful first residential.

1. Cost

One of the areas that parents are surprised by when it comes to school trips, is the cost. The average cost of school expenses is ever increasing. To add a school trip on top of that can be surprising. One suggestion would be to find out the year ahead what school trips are planned and speak to the school office about cost estimates. There is no easy way around the cost but you can plan ahead and avoid surprises.

2. Positivity

This is it, your baby is going away for a few nights and you’re not sure about it. Many parents feel this way when children go off on their own. However, it’s important that you remain positive when discussing the aspects of the residential with your child. If your eleven-year-old is afraid of heights, try not to mention how scary the high ropes course looks – instead talk about working towards new goals. This is a learning experience for everyone involved!

3. Don’t trivialise concerns

At the same time as staying positive, let your child know there is open discussion around any concerns they have. Simply smiling and saying, “don’t worry, you’ll love it!” may actually stop them from sharing their worries. Sometimes just sharing with mum or dad can clear up any apprehensions.

4. Tell your own story

One way to settle nerves before a big trip is to share your own experiences with your child about your first residential. Kids love thinking of their parents as children – navigating through activities, trying the food, sleeping in dorms, etc. You’ll be surprised how much reassurance a child will get from hearing your own “survival” story.

5. Trial Run

If your child has never spent time away before, it’s a good idea to have a practise run at a grandparent’s or friend’s house. Or offer to swap with another classmate and you could help your child learn how to fall asleep with a friend in the next bed over (warning: this may result in late night escapades, snacks and giggles!).

6. Make a checklist

Usually the school will provide a list of sensible items to bring on the residential. Quite a few children enjoy making a list and working out exactly which t-shirts and PJs they want to bring. Find out if it’s acceptable to bring a small cuddly toy. If your child is embarrassed about wanting a comforter, you can suggest hiding it in their pillowcase!

7. Manage Expectations

For children, it’s about understanding that they will be living in a group setting and it’s important to be patient and have compassion about other students as well as taking care of themselves.

8. Personal responsibility

Has she brushed her hair? Did he brush his teeth? Leave a little list on the bathroom mirror and allow your child to get on with these things. You can always follow up afterwards – but it’s a good way to get them thinking about getting ready to start the day.

Some residentials also require children to make up their own beds – a skill that can be useful at home too. There’s nothing like handing your child a fitted sheet and asking them to put it on…just don’t let them struggle for too long!

9. Be honest with teaching staff

Before your child goes away, if you know of any major issues, always share them with the teacher or school staff. If your child has a difficulty such as wetting the bed, embarrassing as it may seem to discuss, it’s better for the staff to know. Identify an appropriate staff member. Confidence will surely be maintained, and your child will feel better knowing they can speak to someone about it.

10. Enjoy some you time

One of the strangest aspects of a residential trip is actually for parents missing their children. Having your other children home, whilst one is away, is a strange feeling. Take the time to focus on a sibling or even sneak out for an evening and enjoy some quality time with your other half!

11. Avoid long good-byes

Finally, a quick hug and kiss is sufficient at the door of the school or coach. Although you may prefer a long, drawn out goodbye, reminding your child of all the things they must remember, saying you love and miss them, will only exacerbate the act of being away from home. Concentrate on making a big deal for the welcome home after instead.

The majority of children come back from residential trips with a mixture of emotions: full of excitement, exhausted, and ready to tell you all about it. Enjoy this time with your child. You’ve both earned it.

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