According to the American Psychological Association, over 1 million youth in America enter the juvenile court system each year. Of those, approximately 160,000 are recommended for residential treatment such as correctional institutions, group homes, or detention centers. Unfortunately, many of these programs end up doing teens a disservice, increasing their problems with depression, more risky behaviors, or suicidal thoughts.
Parents who are raising troubled teens – more specifically troubled teenage boys – have legitimate concerns about allowing their child to enter such a program, and yet they aren’t sure what their other options are. They want their son to feel and act better, hopefully preventing them from entering the court system at all.
You Have Options When It Comes To Alternative Programs
If you feel your teenage son is at risk, don’t lose hope. You have options that can help him overcome his troubles and have a more successful future. And your choices don’t have to involve resorting to the juvenile court or detention system. One of the best options for your family might be an alternative school or residential education and therapy program. There are several different types you might consider:
Alternative Education Programs – Many high schools actually offer alternative programs for at-risk youth. Depending on the issues your son is facing, you could take advantage of different programs including on-line schools, independent study, or continuing education programs. The curriculum taught will be the same, but might be taught in a more flexible manner or different pace.
Military Schools or Boot Camps – Some parents feel they are unable to provide the kind of discipline their teenage son needs. Military schools or boot camps can provide the structure some kids need to straighten out, and even develop some leadership skills. If your son shows interest in a military career, these schools can also be a good option. However, if your son’s issues stem from deeper mental or emotional problems, military school or boot camp might not be the best choice.
Wilderness Programs – For shorter-term help with your struggling teen, some parents consider wilderness camps. These therapeutic programs can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. They are typically set in primitive locations that remove teens from negative environments and influences. Wilderness camps can teach your son about self reliance and hard work, while providing stimulating and rigorous activities such as hiking, climbing, boating, and fishing. Most of these programs are staffed with trained counselors who can help with behavior and some other issues, but do not include an educational component. Parents looking for academics for their son should look elsewhere for that kind of help.
Therapeutic Boarding Schools – If your son struggles in school due to addiction, anxiety, depression, social issues, or developmental problems you might want to look into a therapeutic boarding school. Many of these schools are designed specifically to help troubled boys with their unique set of challenges. They typically offer small class sizes with highly individualized teaching, and an emphasis on mentorship. These schools even offer extracurricular activities meant to support learning and provide positive, constructive outlets for creativity, energy, and talent.
Which Alternative Program For Teens Should You Choose?
For truly troubled teens who need caring, yet structured treatment away from home, a therapeutic boarding school is often the right choice. By taking a more holistic approach, a therapeutic school can address much more than behavior issues.
In a well-rounded school, your son can receive the therapy and education he needs, but there is much more to it than that. He can also learn important life skills. And because of the “whole boy” approach, he can gain a lasting love of learning. A school which places importance on service projects as an integral part of their program can help boys become more empathetic and less self-centered. Finally, a quality school can help even the most troubled teen boys make a successful transition back into normal life.
The Bottom Line With Alternative Schools
If your teenage son is struggling in school or seems unable to cope productively with challenges, the most important thing you can do is reach out for help. You might feel like an inadequate parent if you need outside assistance, but nothing could be further from the truth. By recognizing your son’s needs and taking the right steps to meet them, you are helping to ensure that he has the brightest possible future – and that’s what every child deserves.