You have given it your all, yet still your teen son refuses to cooperate. In fact, his behavior has seemed to escalate not only from bad to worse but to a truly dangerous level. It might be time to send him to a therapeutic boarding school. Even though you know it’s the best solution for him and for your family, you will ride an emotional roller coaster as you make this difficult decision.
The Role of a Therapeutic Boarding School
Therapeutic boarding schools offer behavioral and emotional help for boys and girls, usually in an isolated environment. The schools include educational services and sometimes go by other names, such as behavior modification facilities or emotional growth academies. These programs can offer viable options for parents at their wits’ end who need an alternative for their son. However, you should verify any specific claims regarding success rates, academic programs, accreditation, the type of treatment, staff background checks and staff credentials.
Most schools accept only boys or only girls and are generally located in a somewhat rural setting. While they might enroll children as young as nine or 10, the schools generally focus on teens and high-school aged children.
Behaviors that Warrant Admission to a Therapeutic Boarding School
As a parent, you might not know exactly when your child has reached the point when he needs to be sent to boarding school. While there is no firm answer to this question, some of the signs and behavioral problems follow, depending on how serious the issue is.
- Academic struggles – Teens sometimes feel lost in the crowded halls of public schools, struggling to retain information due to their learning style. The smaller classes and individualized attention at a therapeutic boarding school might provide just the help he needs.
- Peer pressure – You might see your teen start to go down the wrong path with friends. If you want to nip the problem in the bud, an isolated setting might be a great placement for him.
- Family problems – If the family is going through upheaval, such as a divorce, your teen might act out. His might affect the other children in your home, especially if he is the oldest child. The younger ones will feel scared and threatened, so sending your son to therapeutic boarding school might provide the entire family with a respite, providing safety for your other children and a new environment for your teen.
- Alcohol and substance abuse – If your teen starts to experiment with alcohol, marijuana and substance abuse, you will need to intervene in order to make sure that the problem doesn’t escalate.
- Anger control and behavioral problems – Behavioral problems, such as anger control, sometimes can be better addressed in a therapeutic setting.
- Legal problems, including gang-related activity – You might want to pull your son out of any situation when he becomes involved in juvenile delinquency before his behavior escalates to serious legal issues with lasting implications for his life.
- Depression or bipolar disorder – Before sending your son to a therapeutic treatment program for these problems, research your options as not all schools are equipped to handle these diagnoses.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder – Your teen might have suffered some type of serious trauma, leading to PTSD. Therapeutic boarding schools can sometimes serve as a place of healing for your son.
- Attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, oppositional defiance and similar behaviors – Again, do your research to be sure that the school is equipped to handle these types of issues and that your son will do well in this environment.
- Sexual abuse – If your child has been sexually abused, he might seek treatment at a therapeutic boarding school.
- A combination of any of the above – If your son is dealing with more than one of the listed issues, the problems intertwine with each other, becoming more complex.
Options to Try Before Sending Your Son to a Therapeutic Boarding School
You should only seek out a therapeutic boarding school for your teen as a last resort. First, try several options, including the following, before you make the final decision to send him away to school:
- Take him for a physical – Check to see if any physical issues, such as a chemical or hormonal imbalance, are contributing to his negative behaviors.
- Talk with school officials, including the school counselor – The school might have suggestions regarding possible interventions. If he is struggling academically, they might offer credit recovery or distance learning.
- Seek individual and/or family counseling – Personal counseling and speaking with a professional might resolve his issues. In addition, you might find that you are unwittingly contributing to his detrimental behaviors and stop what you are doing. As a result, his actions might change as well.
- Join a support group for both you and your son – Finding others to confide in might help remedy some of the issues you face. Just knowing that you are not alone in your situation can offer the encouragement you need during this difficult time.
- Consider a specialized, outpatient program in your area that deals with the relevant issues, such as mental health, delinquency or substance abuse – You might be able to find treatment close to home. If he addresses the core problem, he might gain control of his behavior.
- If your child threatens to harm himself or to harm others, seek immediate professional help. Take these threats very seriously as they might be more than just empty words.
While you should not make the decision to send your son to therapeutic boarding school at the first sign of trouble, you do need to assess his problems and watch to make sure that you take intentional steps to intervene before they escalate out of control. While you might sometimes vacillate about your decision, over the long haul you are doing what is best for him by securing the treatment that he needs.