If you suffered separation anxiety when you saw your sweet tot off to pre-school, you have only to imagine what it feels like to send a teenager away from home entirely. But when home is a battleground centered on a teen who’s got behavioral issues brought on by a mood or emotional disorder, learning disability, addiction, or other difficulties, it no longer feels like a safe haven for anyone in the family. And it doesn’t do a thing for the teen who’s in the middle of it all.
Don’t blame it on your parenting skills. It’s no admission of failure. In fact, you should be proud of yourself for doing the right thing for your teen no matter how hard it might be on you to do it. A teenager’s brain isn’t easy to reckon with, and sometimes it takes a professional — or a team of professionals — to set things back on the right path.
Have I Failed as a Mother if I send my Teen to Boarding School?
Coming to the realization that your son or daughter would be best served by leaving home is an emotional kick in the pants, and on top of that, the choices of boarding schools can be bewildering. You’ll have to decide among schools that are coed and ones that are just for boys or girls, and among those are schools that are faith-based or not. There’s also the question of whether you’re open to a school that might be far from home. For many families, finances are also a concern.
How to make the right decision? Here are some guidelines that can help:
Trust Your Own Instincts
You surely have received valuable advice from counselors or therapists, and by all means take it all into consideration. But you know your child and your family better than anyone else, and in the end you’ve got to make the decision yourself. That doesn’t mean you should ignore advice that you’d rather not hear.
Do seriously consider what the professionals have to say, and then assess it through what you know about how your teen responds. Of course, your son or daughter may surprise you and adapt to an environment entirely different from what you’d suspect. (Isn’t that the fun of having a teenager?) So keep an open mind, but trust yourself to know what feels right.
Don’t Be Driven by Guilt
In the best of times, a teenager usually isn’t the wisest decision maker, and one who is wrestling with problems is certainly not in any shape to determine the best course of action. Don’t let yourself be manipulated by guilt. This situation isn’t easy for anyone, and you don’t want to add to the misery, but you can’t give in because your teen is unhappy about the prospect. Hang tough.
Don’t Focus Only on Location or Price
In your research to choose a school, it’s understandable that you might be tempted to pick one near home if only to avoid airfare or long drives. And there’s no question that some schools, wherever they are, are fairly costly.
Bankrupting the family won’t help anyone, but if you can afford it or find financial assistance, be open to all of the reasonable possibilities. Your primary 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.
You might have tried other kinds of programs during the school year or during summer vacation, but sometimes a complete change of environment is what’s needed. A boarding school like Diamond Ranch Academy in Utah could be the answer. It’s a safe environment with a fresh, new vista that gives a troubled teen time with peers facing the same challenges as they work through them with counseling and personalized instruction in a setting of natural beauty and away from everything that triggers old behavior patterns.
Look for a Program That Includes the Family
As you know, what a troubled teen is going through has a significant effect on siblings and the family dynamic in general. By the time you’re considering boarding school, other members of the family would benefit from counseling, too. It can be very helpful if a program includes participation with scheduled visits and family sessions to bring you all back into sync.
Don’t Expect Results by a Timetable
No reputable school will guarantee that a problem can be resolved in some specific amount of time. You might be given educated guesses based on experience, but every child is an individual and establishing new patterns of behavior takes time. Give yourself a break 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.