PARENTS need to prepare themselves, just as much as their children, for children going away to boarding school.
The empty house can be harder on parents than they expect, and Women in Farming Enterprises (WIFE) annual seminar presenter Helen Devenish said a "homesick" parent could affect their child's ability to cope with their new life.
She said the parents were the main factor on whether a child would be successful at boarding school.
"If the parents are prepared, if they have done their homework, if they know what to expect themselves and if they are ready for the eventuality that their child is going to leave home, then they're going to be in a better position to prepare their young person for boarding school," Ms Devenish said.
"It's essential that you really start to think what it's going to be like for your family, what it's going to be like when you wake up and your child is not in their bed."
The 100-plus women attending the WIFE seminar listened intently as Ms Devenish highlighted the need for research prior to choosing a boarding school, good relationships with the school carers and an understanding that sometimes it's better to maintain distance as a child adjusts to homesickness and being away.
Co-presenter Michelle Dunn, who worked in boarding schools and has published a guide for parents and children about to attend boarding school, said parents need to be strong.
In her book, Bits About Boarding School, Ms Dunn said children are able to build independence, strength and character when they know they have the support of their parents.
"When they're away you feel as though you're missing out, you have that guilt," she said.
"But the problem is that when they're at boarding school they may not have the energy to talk to you, so leave it up to them to maintain contact and let them know you're there."
She said one of the most important things parents can do to prepare children for boarding house situations is teach them skills such as bed making and using the washing machine, and talk about what it's like being away.