Parents’ Guide to Choosing the Right School for Your Troubled Teen

Parents’ Guide to Choosing the Right School for Your Troubled Teen


screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-12-40-47-pmBeing a parent is a joy and sometimes a trial at the same time. Particularly if you’ve got a teen who’s going through a rough patch. You’d think that being a doctor yourself would give you a leg up on dealing with a son or daughter who is getting awful grades, being disruptive in class, and wreaking havoc on the family dynamic at home. But whether the behavior is caused by hormones, mood or social disorders, an addiction, or other challenges, getting through to your teen may be more than you can handle alone.

A journey through a teenager’s brain isn’t for the faint of heart, and sometimes it takes a fresh approach to set things right. Fortunately, there are a wide range of options for helping your teen and restoring your own sanity in the process. But choosing the right one can be bewildering.

There are programs that teens can participate in while living at home during the school year, and there are also short-term options like boot camps specializing in specific problems. You may have tried one or more of these and found them less than successful. Resolving some issues requires longer term and more intensive programs that take teens out of their normal environment and the triggers they hold for old behavior patterns.

The answer used to be the “tough love” of military school, but today there are therapeutic alternatives to military school that combine classroom education with counseling and with recreational and group activities that bring troubled teens together in a fresh environment that fosters the emotional and social skills needed for them to realize their full potential.

Within all of those options, the  process of choosing the right school includes deciding whether it should be coed or dedicated to boys or girls alone, opting between one that is faith-based and one that isn’t, and making other tough choices about locations and finances. There’s also the emotional component to consider. Recognizing that your son or daughter needs more help than you can provide yourself can be a hard pill to swallow.

Here are some guidelines that will help you to make the right choice:

Listen to the Experts

By this point, you undoubtedly have consulted with a counselor or therapist and also have your own thoughts about what would be best for your teenager. As with a medical doctor diagnosis, you know that getting a second or even third opinion is often the smart thing to do.

Listen thoughtfully to the advice you get, and don’t dismiss whatever it is you’d rather not hear. Then put it all through the filter of what you know about your own child. Keep an open mind, but In the final analysis, you’ve got to make the decision yourself. Trust your own instincts to know what feels right.

Close the Door on Guilt

You’re contemplating sending your own child away from home, and that’s bound to feel bad. But don’t lay a guilt trip on yourself and don’t let your son or daughter manipulate you into feeling like the worst parent on earth.

This isn’t a picnic for anyone, but you’re doing it to make things better not only for your troubled teen but for the whole family. (On the other hand, don’t feel guilty if the only emotion you have is relief. You’ve been going through some difficult times for a while and you’re allowed to exhale.)

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-12-41-19-pmConsider More Than Location or Price

It’s reasonable that you might lean toward picking a school that’s near home, if only to avoid expensive airfare or long drives. And there’s no question that some schools, whatever the location, are fairly costly.

By all means, don’t bankrupt the family, but if you can afford it or find financial assistance, be open to all of the possibilities. Your main focus should be on finding the program that’s most appropriate for your child rather than one that’s convenient but will be a waste of time and money in the long run.

Include the Family in the Process

As you know well, what a troubled teen is going through has a significant effect on siblings and the whole family dynamic. By the time you’re considering boarding school, other members of the family would benefit from counseling, too. Look for a school with a program that includes participation with scheduled visits and family sessions to bring you all back into sync.

Let Things Take Their Course

No reputable school will guarantee that a problem can be resolved in some specific amount of time. Naturally, you’ll be anxious for an educated guess based on experience, but every child is different and establishing new patterns of behavior takes time. Don’t look for shortcuts.




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