Joy Schaverien has noted that that the definition of children in care seems to fit the child in boarding school. (Boarding School Syndrome, 2015)
"Looked after children" as they are now known are taken from their parent's home and environment and put into a care home with other children or placed with foster parents in order to provide a better, safer upbringing for the child. This usually comes about by court order and children are taken from their parents or because the parents may feel unable to cope due to their own personal circumstances, or the children have extensive behavioural problems or special needs.
A child in a Boarding School is also a “looked after” child. They spend many of their formative years in institutional care and are in effect fostered by strangers.
I am not here to compare a child's experience in a boarding school to a child's experience in care, as there are several obvious differences such as the economic background of most children sent away to school. However, a difference of importance to note is that often parents of children in care are reluctant to let them go and the children may be taken from them. The pain for the boarder is that their parents chose this form of care for them and they often pay lots of money for it.
In both situations, the children experience a loss of attachment figures and the distress of being looked after by strangers. The parents are voluntarily delegating their childcare to these strangers and unfortunately for many ex-boarders, these adults were far from nurturing and many ex-boarders live with the repercussions of the emotional and physical abuse bequeathed upon them.
Boarders have to reconcile themselves with the fact that their parents wanted them to be brought up in this way. They have to understand why if they are loved, this painful experience is good for them.
The narrative is such a good one. All the opportunities that they receive that they wouldn't at a local school for example. It is often when an ex-boarder becomes a parent themselves and their eldest child hits the age that they were sent away, that it really hits home for them. Some unraveling may occur then as they try to make sense of why their parents did this. Cognitively they may understand it, but the small wounded abandoned child inside may start to feel rage towards their parents for sending them away.
Many ex-boarders feel unable to express this to their parents and wait until they have passed away before they feel they can open up this box and let their hidden emotions out. It can feel like an incredibly difficult conversation to have. The parents may respond defensively because they genuinely believed they were doing the best thing for them. However, the child ( who may be 40), just needs to be given the chance to be heard in a way that they weren't in those early years in the dormitory when they lay awake at night wondering if their mum loved them.
If you are interested in having that conversation with your parent, or a parent who wants to talk to their child and would like some support to enable that communication, then I offer a mediating session in which I will hold that space for you and enable you to communicate your feelings to each other, so that you will hopefully feel heard and listened to and some healing can occur.