Cardigan Mountain School A boarding and day school for boys in grades 6 through 9

Before You Arrive: Tips from the Student Life Office

I’d like to offer four key ways you can help prepare your son for his transition to Cardigan. We can’t wait to get the school year started, and want to set the boys up for success as much as possible.

Talk About Homesickness

All boys experience some degree of homesickness. As parents and guardians, you likely have a sense of how your son will deal with leaving home. You can talk to your son about how he is feeling about being away from home and family for an extended period. Discussing coping strategies ahead of time is beneficial as well: staying busy, building relationships, encouraging them that it will get better, and asking for help from dorm parents, the health center, and student leaders. If there is anything you think we should know with regards to homesickness based on your conversations, please let your son’s advisor know.

Practice Independence

Cardigan boys learn how to be responsible citizens during their time on The Point, but practicing while still at home can be beneficial. Finding incremental ways for your student to practice personal responsibility will help him feel more confident with more autonomy at Cardigan. He can start by setting a more structured schedule (including earlier wake up, reading, exercise, chores, fun, and a healthy bedtime). Also, he can take ownership of some tasks like washing the dishes, cooking a meal, doing his laundry, or cleaning his room on a daily basis. Practicing independence will also help prevent homesickness and decrease student anxiety during the opening days.

Don’t Overpack

You may be tempted to pack more than is necessary. We encourage you to stick to the packing guide (including two sets of bed linens, as the E&R laundry service does not provide them). Your son can always get additional belongings if he needs them, but each year we have students with way too much stuff. This makes it hard to keep a tidy space and leads to misplaced valuables. Most importantly, a part of the Cardigan Way and living responsible lives is being modest and recognizing the beauty of enough. 

Limit Screen Time

For many of us, adults and students, this will be the toughest transition, as we have all grown attached to our technology. Limiting screen time before arriving at Cardigan may be the best way to help your son prepare for the year ahead. We continue to see an increase in social anxiety, more dependence on connection through technology, and less confidence with face-to-face interactions. We would argue that there is no better time to be at a middle school without cell phones. During our opening days (before they receive their computers), the boys will only have access to the phones in their rooms, which is a huge change. Here’s how you can help your son be present and see the Cardigan experience as an opportunity:

  • Try to go an entire day without cell phones, computers, or TV, or allot specific, limited hours for screen time. Either way, have your son become less reliant on screens leading up to his arrival.
  • Consider making this a family challenge! Your son is more likely to participate if everyone else does. 
  • Talk about this experience with your son and discuss other alternatives to prevent boredom:
    • Is there a card or board game he can share from home?
    • Are there some books he wants to read?
    • Is there a skill like drawing he can share? 
    • What sports or activities does he enjoy doing outside?

We see the relationship between the school and parents/guardians as a partnership. In that context, we need to address the integrity of our cell phone policy. Cardigan’s cell phone and technology policy is clear. All boys must turn in cell phones (and other technology specified in the Student Handbook) to their dorm parents at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, we have had an increasing number of students submit old or non-working devices, or none at all, while secretly keeping an unsanctioned device. This goes against our Core Values, and dishonesty is considered a major school rule. There is increasing literature about the negative effects of excessive technology use, especially in regards to relationship building and interpersonal skills, and we care most about the character of our community. We believe that limiting distracting technology enhances our student experience, and we need your buy-in if we are going to convince the boys of the importance of being fully present during their short time at Cardigan. 
With this in mind, we request that all families reinforce our technology policy. You can help by having a conversation with your sons about the values of our policy, collecting old/unused devices, and being clear about what technology you permit them to pack and bring to school. When the boys hear a similar message from multiple mentors in their lives, it is more likely to resonate.

I hope you find this information useful as you get ready for the academic year. We are counting down the days before we get to work with your boys again! Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or concerns. We’re happy to help.

Be Well,

Nick Nowak
Dean of Students