Why Do I Need a Therapeutic Boarding School?

THERAPEUTIC BOARDING SCHOOL FOR MY TEEN OR NOT?

Throughout many years as Executive Director and primary contact for prospective parents for Wolf Creek Academy, I have frequently been asked the question, “How do I know when it is time for my son/daughter to have to go away into boarding school or treatment?”

This is a very difficult decision for any parent to make, and there is, clearly, no set rule of thumb.  About thirty years ago, my husband and I were faced with making a difficult decision in our own lives about having to make a move or change that would affect our whole family.  I consulted with a trusted friend and counselor and asked the question, “How do I know when it is time to go?”  His answer was simply, “When it is more difficult or painful to stay than it would be to go, then it is time to move forward”.

When dealing with a troubled teen in your home, you have many factors to consider.  How is he affecting the other siblings in the home?  What is the effect on the family as a whole?  Is there a willingness for him or her to participate in counseling with the family, and is it working?  Are they showing any signs of really trying to change or, at least, expressing a need for change?

Hundreds of families have come to the conclusion that keeping Johnnie at home, even for a few more months, may prove to be detrimental to them, or have irreversible affects on the other siblings—a risk they were not willing to take.  Therefore, they would begin the arduous process of researching to find the best therapeutic program equipped to meet their child’s needs.

At first, at the very thought of sending Johnnie away, they may be flooded with feelings of guilt.  They would spend sleepless nights and long days at work, doing their best to remain focused on their daily tasks, while being consumed with finding a solution to help their child and, ultimately, the whole family.

Once the decision is made to seek an appropriate program for their child, they may begin to be flooded with many thoughts such as:

  1. How can I send my own child away?
  2. I am his parent; God gave this child to me to raise!
  3. How can I trust someone else to do my job?
  4. If I do this, I am affirming to him that I am giving up on him.
  5. She may never forgive me or choose to speak to me again.
  6. What if she runs away and I never see her again?

The list can go on and on……….At this point, you have to ask yourself a few questions:

  1. How is it working now with Johnnie at home?
  2. Do I look forward to seeing him walk in the door, believing that we will have a great evening of family time?
  3. Do I find myself walking on egg shells around him and not wanting to rock the boat by bringing up issues that need to be discussed—–like who are your friends, and what are you doing while spending so much time away from home?
  4. When was the last time that I really had good night of sleep and rested, feeling that all were safe in my nest?
  5. Can I trust him in our home alone?
  6. Can I trust him to leave him alone with his younger siblings?
  7. Does our family feel safe with him in the home with us?
  8. Can we sleep in our bedroom with the door unlocked without fear of him/her coming in while we are sleeping and go through our things, wallet, purse, medicine cabinet, etc?
  9. Do other siblings/mate or partner feel neglected because of the amount of time required to deal or address Johnnie’s issues on an ongoing basis?
  10. Am I confident that the next step for him/her may not be a legal issue or a hospital confinement, and am I prepared for that?

If you are comfortable with the answers that you honestly gave yourself, then continue working through things in the home with family counseling as well as individual psychotherapy and an adequate evaluation for your child.  Proper diagnosis, possible medication, and a team approach with the whole family may be the answer for your child at this point.

However, if you are not comfortable with your answers to these questions that you honestly gave yourself, then put a stop to the flood of negative thoughts that are preventing you from moving forward with seeking the help for your child and family through residential treatment.  Be careful involving too many people in this process, especially when consulting grandparents or close family members who honestly cannot see Johnnie as anything but a perfect little gentleman or Susie as anything but a little princess.  Understand that the true character in your child comes out in your home with his immediate family and not necessarily when he is with others.  Kids have an ability to mask their true colors for a period of time, and you cannot expect some people to understand or agree with you in this decision.  It may be a lonely time for you as you move through the whole process, but seek a support system that reinforces your decision, and then take one step at a time.  Seek out God’s direction, and trust Him to lead you through it.  You will soon be glad that you did.

I can’t tell you how many times I have had to listen and diffuse an angry grandparent who had just learned that their favorite grandchild was residing with us at our therapeutic school.  Now, I am a grandmother and Nana to six grandsons, so I totally understand how they feel!  I am always happy to hear them out and will normally get them to agree with me to give it two weeks before calling us back to talk to Johnnie or Susie.  I assure them that they are safe, and that, if we find, in our professional assessment, that they are misplaced and do not need to be here, we will gladly send them back home to mom and dad.  Grandparents do seem to have a more difficult time acknowledging that their precious grandchild would have any issues that couldn’t just be fixed with the right consequences at home, sometimes a swift kick (not recommended), or just letting them alone to figure it out on their own with the belief that they will get through it as thousands before them have.  The Old School way just doesn’t cut it in this generation of kids who have had to learn to survive in a society that is so far from anything that we Baby Boomers have ever known!

Education for the whole family is a must and should be included in the treatment plan for a successful transformation of your child—-even if it leads to residential boarding school for a period of time in his/her life.  Your child deserves the best, and so do you.

If your family needs help, pursue it and allow God to give you the direction and peace in your decision—–Boarding School or not?

Dr. Patricia Jones, PhD
Executive Director and Founder