New Boarding Family FAQs

You have questions, we have answers to help you and your daughter transition to life as a boarding student at Madeira

Below are some of most asked questions.
Have more? Contact the Dean of Student Life and Culture Office at 703-556-8211


My daughter will be flying home for breaks but has never travelled alone before; can you arrange for her to go with an older girl?

We’ll share much more travel information closer to November, but the short answer is yes.  We collect flight/train information from girls who either want to take the Madeira shuttle to the airport or want to share a cab or an Uber so that we can help them connect with one another.  We also do some Travel Tips 101 training in dorm meetings the week before Thanksgiving break. Click here for more information about options for airport transportation and feel free to speak to Ms. Macias, at the Adult On Duty (AOD) desk imacias@madeira.org in the  Dean of Students Office with questions.

How often should I plan to talk/Facetime/Skype with my daughter? Currently we speak every day; is that realistic? Also, when will she be free to connect?

I offer some general guidelines on this topic as communication expectations within families often vary widely.  The reality is that for most of you, your daughter has been living with you and likely connecting with you over meals, on the way to school and possibly even checking in during her school day. While I recognize that since we are talking about adolescent girls that may more often mean short logistical chats than profound, meaningful conversation (maybe you are talking a lot, her not so much) the rhythm of your connections will no doubt be changing.  Talk with your daughter about this before move-in day.  What will feel good to her?  Will that be enough for you? Consider other factors such as how likely she is to be homesick.  For homesick girls, less can be more in the beginning, because talking with you or her siblings is obviously a reminder of what she is missing.  While we aren’t trying to have her forget about home, we are trying to help her transition by exploring and getting to know her new community, which she is more inclined to do if she is able to put “home” out of her mind for a bit.

I would plan on speaking with her no more than once a day.  What time of day is best will also vary widely depending on all of your schedules.  Once she is here and in the swing of things ask her what time her D block meets.  This will vary depending on the activity and may change each season.  If she is playing a varsity sport, practice doesn’t start until 4:00pm so she will be free from 2:35pm until then; other D blocks start at 2:45pm so a 5:00pm call before dinner, which starts at 6:00pm, might be better.  Sunday through Thursday she has study hall from 7:30-9:30pm so it’s best not to text or call then, but 9:30pm might be the perfect time.  For those of you who have a big time difference to factor in, before class starts at 8:30am might work best.  At Madeira we believe sleep is a study skill, so it is important to remember that 9th and 10th graders have lights out at 11:00pm and are expected to be in bed going to sleep at that time. 

Finally, a note about texting.  It is not uncommon for girls to be used to texting with parents numerous times throughout the day.  I would advise against this, at least at first.  In class, your daughter will not have her phone out unless it is being used for coursework, and we do not allow girls to use their phones during meals because we want them to engage with the people with whom they are sharing a meal when they are in the dining hall.  In addition, we have a “no walking and talking” policy which means that when we walk around campus we are expected to engage with the real world (people we pass on the Oval, our beautiful campus, a teacher’s new puppy, etc.) and not the virtual one. So, her time during the day to respond to a text from you is quite limited. If she looks down at her phone and sees that you have texted her five times she will feel compelled to respond when she may not actually have the time to do so.  Conversely, give yourself permission not to respond immediately if your daughter texts you five times before noon.  It is ok, better I would argue, to not respond until your normal chat or to quickly respond with, “I know you are busy with class and friends so we will connect tonight.”  While it may not feel good, and while she may not like it, what you are doing is signaling to her that you know she can handle whatever she was reaching out to you for. And, if you don’t respond right away, nine times out of ten she will. (For a humorous perspective on this topic read Jennifer Weiner’s article here.)

We live fairly close by. Can our daughter come home each weekend? When can we come to visit?

We love it when parents come to visit.  It is not uncommon for parents to come to breakfast or dinner.  Weekend brunch is a great time to spend on campus, plus the waffles are yummy.  There are also many opportunities to volunteer in support of campus events - from helping to sell “kisses for the cast” at the fall play, to being a Cookie “Mom”ster, to taking photos for athletics while you catch your daughter’s game. 

No matter how close you live to campus, I urge you to encourage your daughter to stay on campus for most of the first month of school.  Transitioning to a new place, developing new routines and building community takes time; give her the space to do that even if she does not realize that is what she needs to do.  The first two weekends of school are On Campus Weekends so she is required to be here. If you live within driving distance she may be tempted to head home the first weekend she is able.  Encourage her to stay on campus, or perhaps stay Friday night and come home just for Saturday evening.  While it will feel easy and comfortable at first to go home, as your daughter will soon realize, there are many activities planned for the girls, both on and off campus each weekend.  There is also something magical that happens when a group of girls spends the evening binge-watching the last season of Madame Secretary in the common room; this is when the seeds of community and relationships are sown.  If you want her to come home, suggest she invite another boarder to join her, as there are many who live too far to go home other than for breaks, and who relish the opportunity to be with siblings and pets, and yes, even parents! You may find you’ll hear more about Madeira from your daughter’s friends than from your own daughter. The more your daughter is on campus at the start of the year, the more opportunities she will have to connect with her peers and the adults who live on campus, and the more quickly she will transition to residential life.

How can I support my daughter if she is homesick? I am worried I will be “kid sick”; what helps?

As Dr. Chris Thurber, a nationally recognized expert on homesickness notes  in Perri Klass’ article Soothing the Homesick Child, “We never stop missing the people we love.”  Homesickness is quite common.  In fact, Thurber reports that more than 95% of summer campers experience some form of homesickness. As I say to girls all the time, “Of course you are homesick, you have a wonderful family that you are away from.  Soon though, you will find that you get homesick for Madeira too!” We also talk about homesickness regularly the first few weeks of school and have returning students share their stories of how they got through it. Sometimes, just knowing that they are not the “only one” is immensely helpful for girls.  Dr. Thurber offers great advice on this topic that is tremendously effective in my experience.

The best thing you can do is to be positive, which sends a re-assuring message of confidence to, and in, your daughter.  You can also remind her of all the on-campus resources there are here to help - her dorm parents, RA’s, her advisor, as well as the counselors and nurses in the Health & Wellness Center. Encourage her to keep busy and resist the temptation to retreat to her room.  You may have noticed how jam packed the girls’ schedules are the first two weeks of school; this is why! If your daughter is experiencing more protracted homesickness, please reach out to one of the counselors or to my office; we are here to help.

Kidsickness, I can tell you from personal experience,  is real, and that while you may miss your girls desperately while they are away, many parents report how much more “present” and connected their girls feel to them when they come home for breaks.  In addition, expect that you may experience what psychologist and author of Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood, Dr. Lisa Damour refers to as your daughter  Taking Out the Emotional Trash on you.  Now and then expect that your daughter will call and hurl whatever emotions are in her bin your way.  When this happens don’t panic, call us!  Chances are by the time you have hung up with her and gotten the dorm parent on the phone, she is happily hanging out with friends down the hall, feeling better because her trash is now your problem. While you will miss her, desperately sometimes, what I can offer with complete confidence is that you will be in awe of the transformation that occurs during her time here.  The skills and capacities she will develop, will not only prepare her well to navigate the academic rigor of college, but also to be her own advocate, to live happily in and contribute to a community, and to struggle and sometimes fail and move forward and persevere. She will be well on her way by the end of her first year at Madeira to mastery of the set of skills the former Stanford freshman dean Julie Lythcott-Haims asserts every child should possess by age 18.  The opportunity you are giving your daughter by allowing her a boarding experience will be transformative.

I’m worried if my daughter is struggling she may put on a brave face and the adults on campus may not know. If this happens who should I call?

It is not uncommon at all for girls to need some practice asking for help or sharing a worry.  Your girls are bright, talented and motivated, and for some this may be the first time that they have hit a speedbump (which might feel like a roadblock in the moment) related to academics or friends, or maybe just having to do her own laundry.  Re-assure her that you are confident she can do “this,” and that it may take some practice and hard work before it starts to feel easier.  Remind her that speedbumps don’t keep us from where we are going, but they do slow us down. This allows us to pay closer attention to an unfamiliar stretch of road, and sometimes that allows us to notice something along the route that we would have missed otherwise. 


When in doubt call us!  Your daughter’s advisor and/or her dorm parent are great people to start with.  Each girl has an adult in her dorm who is the dorm “parent” for the dorm family (group of around eight girls) she is part of within her dorm. They will reach out in early September to check in with you.  In addition, you can always reach whichever adult is in the dorm on any given evening by calling the dorm telephone (we’ll share these and other important numbers at orientation.)  Let us know what you are hearing and what you are worried about.  We will let you know what we are seeing, and together we can make a plan, if one is needed.