Author and Parent Advocate -
Articles, thoughts and strictly opinions of the author
Troubled Teens: Is It Time for a Therapeutic Boarding School?
As I share with parents, deciding on sending your child to a therapeutic boarding school is a major decision not to be taken lightly. It’s not about teaching your child a lesson, it’s not about punishing your teen or scaring them straight — residential therapy is a huge financial and emotional decision that is made after you have exhausted all your local resources.
Residential therapy is a choice made out of love to give your child a second chance at a bright future.
Usually a parent has reached their wit’s end; they have been to local therapy, some have even tried having their teen stay with a relative. Some have been through extensive out-patient programs but it isn’t until you remove (residential therapy) the teen from their environment that they will be able to heal and gain an objective view on what is the root of the issues.
In the majority of families that contact us, these are not bad kids, these are kids that come from good families – raised with morals and taught right from wrong, however making very bad decisions. Whether they have fallen into a negative peer group or struggling with self-worth issues, they are definitely going down a dark path that needs to be addressed.
In many situations we see today’s teen as the spoiled rotten brat syndrome. Don’t be ashamed of that – that is our culture today. It’s not right, but that’s how parents of this generation have raised their kids — they get just about anything they want without earning it. This leads to generation entitlement teenager.
When they feel they are being boxed in or suddenly things aren’t as easy as they used to be, as middle school and high school can tend to become more difficult to fit in, rebellion and defiance (in combination with puberty) can strike.
This behavior can escalate into not only a nasty attitude, but soon you watch their grades declining, maybe they quit (or asked to leave) their once-favorite sport, and suddenly you discover they are using illegal substances and drinking. The spiral continues.
Their outbursts at home and anger towards the parents become unbearable. Worse some teens will get into trouble with the law, maybe shoplifting things they can well-afford to purchase.
Parents soon feel hostage in their own home. No one is immune to this.
How To Know When It’s Time to Try Residential Therapy
You have read most parenting books and behavioral strategy — removing privileges, instilling consequences that are being broken, to behavioral contracts to one-on-one behavioral support in the home — and your teen still doesn’t get better.
Your child had been given numerous psychiatric diagnoses, none of which totally fit. He/she has been on different medications, but none result in long-term changes.
Your house is a war zone every day. Your child is routinely explosive and scares younger siblings and you. You are exhausted and the stress of managing daily crises is taking a toll on your marriage, your job, your personal life and you have reached your wit’s end.
Your child has been expelled from school (or on the verge of being expelled), is addicted to video games, using drugs or alcohol, and has had multiple run-ins with the law.
Your child engages in self-injury, threatens to hurt others or kill himself.
Your child has had a psychiatric hospitalization.
You have finally exhausted all your local resources. This is not an easy decision and one that comes out of love. It is time to give your son or daughter a second opportunity for a bright future – finding a residential therapy setting for 6-10 months out of their lifetime is a small price to pay considering the alternative road they are on.
How Residential Treatment (RTC) or Therapeutic Boarding Schools (TBS) Helps, When Nothing Else Does
RTC or TBS focus on helping the child take personal accountability. Through intensive individual, group and family therapy, residential staff work on shifting the child from blaming others for his problems to acknowledging that he is where he is because he made poor choices.
RTC or TBS remove your child from their negative environment. Whether is a contentious home situation or a negative peer group, it is an opportunity to be in an objective placement to open up and speak freely to others that may have his/her same feelings.
RTC or TBS have level systems so children learn the consequences of their actions. If they make poor choices or don’t do their levels work, they don’t gain privileges. The levels system incentivizes children to change their behavior.
RTC or TBS provide structure and containment that is impossible to achieve at home. Most RTC or TBS are in remote areas where there is nowhere to run. Therapists, behavioral staff and a levels program provide intensive scaffolding to support the child as he learns coping skills that he can then use to regulate himself. When a child can utilize coping skills, he feels in control and begins to make better choices.
RTC or TBS are particularly skilled at helping parents recognize the ways they are unwittingly colluding with their child’s behavior, and learn tools to change their own behaviors. Parent workshops and family therapy (usually via phone and visits) are essential for the child to return home successfully.
When selecting an RTC or TBS, it is important for a parent to find one that has accredited academics, qualified therapists and enrichment programs. This is part of doing your due diligence when researching for programs for your teenager.
In today's society, the Internet has made its way into almost every American home. It is a well-known fact that the web is a valuable asset for research and learning. Unfortunately, it can also be a very dangerous place for teens. With social networking sites like Myspace and Friendster, chat rooms, instant messaging, and online role-playing video games, our children are at access to almost anyone. Sue Scheff, along with Parent's Universal Resource Experts™, is tackling the dangers of the web.
Keeping tabs on our teens' online habits doesn't just keep them safe from online predators. More and more parents are becoming wary of the excessive hours their teens spend surfing the web, withdrawing from family, friends and activities they used to enjoy. Internet Addiction is a devastating problem facing far too many teens and their families. While medical professionals have done limited research on the topic, more and more are recognizing this destructive behavior and even mor…
At this time of year, it seems we are contacted by more and more parents that have an 18 year old or a 17 year old that is almost 18.
If you have been struggling with your younger teen and like many of us, keep hoping and praying it will change,
take a moment to think about if it doesn’t. Don’t miss an opportunity to
give your child a second chance for a better future. Whether it is
local therapy, a motivational out-patient program or a residential therapeutic boarding school - as
parents we do what is best for our kids.
“My 18 year old is out of control and I am at my wit’s end! What can I do?” Anonymous Parent.
18 – 19 year old teens can be the most difficult to address simply
because they are considered adults and cannot be forced to get help. As
parents, we have limited to no control. Practicing “tough love” is
easier said than done, many parents have a problem letting their child reach rock
bottom. As parents, we see our child suffering whether it is needing
First semester of school is coming to an end. You realize that your teen is failing - and may have even discovered they are experimenting with drugs - smoking pot, drinking - and now you are thinking - "is this a phase?" "is it their friends?" "typical teen?"
Sure - all is possible - but why risk it? Getting your teen the help they need is a parent's responsibility. I am not saying that rushing into a residential treatment center is your first option - on the contrary, it is your last.
You need to exhaust all your local resources first. Therapy, peer support groups, maybe outpatient, living with a relative, youth counselors..... If the behavior continues to escalates you can't be a parent in denial. Once the therapy isn't working - your teen is actually holding you hostage in your home - and taking control of your family - you literally feel like you are walking on eggshells - you have to reach out for help.