If you're considering sending your son to a boarding school for troubled teens, you might be experiencing a lot of anxiety about what to expect. Thanks to dramatized portrayals on movies and television, many people have negative or unrealistic ideas about therapeutic boarding schools. Here we try to do a little myth-busting on the most common misperceptions.
1. My child will feel abandoned if I send him away
The idea that teens who are sent to a school for troubled youth are unloved is a huge misconception -- both on the part of teens as well as on the part of his parents. Some parents feel a huge amount of guilt for even considering boarding school -- or they may feel they are bad parents and have somehow "failed." Quite the opposite is true. Even though your teen may feel angry at first, he's most likely just chafing at the idea of being in a controlled environment. You aren't abandoning your child, you love him! Furthermore, you are trying to get him the best help possible so he can be happy and successful in life.
2. Only wealthy people can afford boarding schools
You'll find teens of all types of socioeconomic backgrounds at boarding school. In fact, about one-third of all teens at therapeutic boarding schools receive financial aid. This aid can come in the form of grants, loans, or scholarships. There's a good chance that you can find financial help from the boarding school you choose.
3. Therapeutic boarding schools are like boot camps
Don't confuse a good boarding school for troubled youths with intense, "scared straight-style" boot camps you may have seen on television. Although those boot camps for teens do exist, they have nothing in common with therapeutic boarding schools. Boarding schools provide quality of care, positive attention, and specially trained staff to help your teen.
4. My teen is too difficult for a boarding school
You may worry that your teen is too out of control to be helped and that a therapeutic boarding school couldn't give him the attention he needs. Rest assured that staff at boarding schools are highly trained to help with even the worst behavior problems, learning difficulties, or mental health struggles.
5. Teens can't visit their family while at boarding school
Both parents and their troubled child might worry that they will be isolated from each other. If you already feel disconnected from your son, this fear can seem overwhelming. Although many boarding schools limit phone calls and visits during the initial enrollment period, the limitation is by no means permanent. In fact, regular family visits and family counseling are recommended (and sometimes required) when the time is right. Additionally, communication by mail is almost always allowed, even in the beginning.
6. Boarding schools don't allow kids to have fun
It's true that most therapeutic schools have curfews, rules, and high standards for academic excellence to prepare them to be independent and successful when they graduate. However, an important part of a school's therapy is often "experiential therapy," which can involve lots of fun activities like hiking, skiing, kayaking, or weightlifting. These activities aren't just healthy physically, they also help your teen burn off excess energy, grow self-esteem, and generally have a positive impact on recovery.