Finding the Right School for Your Troubled Teen

It’s a rare teen who sails through school with no bumps along the way, but some kids have it harder than others. What do you do when your teen is getting miserable grades, being disruptive in class, and wreaking havoc on the family at home? 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.

Finding the Right School for Your Troubled Teen

Your Options

It’s no admission of failure, and it’s useless to play the blame game. A trip through a teenager’s brain is a magical mystery tour, and sometimes it takes a professional  to set things right. Lucky for you, there are a wide range of options for helping your teen and restoring your own sanity in the process.

You’ve probably talked to counselors and perhaps done some research on your own, and you know that there are a number of ways to go. There are programs that teenagers can participate in throughout the year while living at home and going to their regular schools.

There are also short-term options like boot camps, wilderness or otherwise, for a jolt of reality, and there are summer camps that specialize in guiding kids in dealing with specific issues. Like teenagers themselves, their challenges can run the gamut from behavioral issues, learning disabilities, ADD/ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, eating disorders, addictions, and more.

For issues that would be best served by an intensive program outside of a teen’s normal environment, there are specialized boarding schools. A far cry from the military schools of the past, there are therapeutic boarding schools that combine classroom education with counseling and with recreational and group activities. Consider enrolling your child at Diamond Ranch for a school that brings troubled teens together in an environment that fosters the emotional and social skills needed for them to realize their full potential.

The options can be bewildering, especially considering the additional emotional stress of making the decision that’s right for your teen. Should the program be coed or just for boys or for girls? Should it be faith-based? Should it be far away in an entirely different setting or should it be close to home?

Where to start? Here are what we hope will be helpful guidelines:

Trust Yourself

The advice you receive from counselors or therapists is valuable and necessary, but you know your child better than anyone else and you’ve got to make the decision yourselves. That’s not, however, permission to ignore advice that you’d rather not hear. Do consider all the professional input and then assess it through what you know about how your teen responds. Of course, your teen may thrive in an environment entirely different from what you’d suspect. So keep an open mind, but trust your own instincts to know if something feels right.

Don’t Give in to Guilt

Has your teen been making the best decisions lately? Probably not or you wouldn’t be reading this. In the best of situations, a teenager isn’t equipped to know what’s best for himself. Add in whatever struggles he or she is going through, and rest assured that you’ve got to keep hold of the reins.

Don’t cave to guilt or manipulation. This isn’t the cheeriest time for anyone, and you don’t want to set up enemy camps, but don’t give in because your teen is unhappy about the whole thing.

Don’t Choose a School Only by Location or Price

In your search to select a school, you might be tempted to pick one close to home. Airfare or driving distance alone might understandably lead you in that direction. And some schools, near or far, are fairly costly. It doesn’t help anyone at all to bankrupt the family, but if you can afford it or find help with fees, be open to all of the reasonable options.

At the end of the day you want the program that’s most appropriate for your child, one that is worth what it costs rather than one that seems economical but doesn’t help your son or daughter.

Don’t Exclude the Rest of the Family

What a troubled teen is going through has a significant effect on siblings and the family dynamic. It can be very helpful if a program includes participation with scheduled visits and family counseling.

Finding the Right School for Your Troubled Teen

Don’t Set a Deadline for Results

No reputable school will tell you a problem can be resolved in any specific amount of time. Educated guesses based on experience are helpful, but every child is an individual. Working through challenges and establishing new patterns of behavior takes time. Exhale and let things take their course.

Resources for more information are available at The American Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.

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