Future Planning With Your Troubled Teen

When you are dealing with a troubled teen you can feel overwhelmed at the prospect of the future. How can you be expected to plan for what is to come when the current situation is so volatile and uncertain?

If you are feeling that way, just imagine how your child is feeling. Whatever the reason for their behavior, they are going through a difficult time and facing challenges that would be hard for an adult to handle, much less an adolescent. Your job is to help them through that, but it isn’t always easy to know how.

There are some steps you can take to make the process go a little smoother.

Start With Ascertaining Goals

Do you know where your teen hopes to end up? It might be a good time to sit down with them and ask them what they want to be or do. Tell them to be honest and tell you what they could be if they could be anything. Remember that no dream is too out of reach.

Once you know, find out together what has to be done to reach that goal. Show them how achievable it can be. Get them in contact with people who are already involved in that industry, or start looking into programs or internships they can start now.

Sometimes just taking the initiative to go towards something they truly want can help curb their behavior.

Get Them Into a Therapeutic Boarding School

Chances are high that you’ve put your teen through every support group, therapist and even menial program around to try and deal with their behavior. There is one more option and it is forward focused on future planning.

Therapeutic boarding schools are institutions that focus 50/50 on therapy and education. They are meant to help your child thrive academically while using trained staff to get to the bottom of their core issues. That includes through individual and group therapy and behavioral modification.

A year at one of these schools can completely change the mindset and future of your teen. Even if nothing else has worked in the past.

Help Your Child Thrive

Dealing with a troubled teen is such a difficult and sometimes heart wrenching process. Any parent could use someone in their corner, helping them through each new milestone and setback.

Having goals in mind and placing them in a program that can help them to achieve them is perhaps the best way you can help your teenager to move into their future life.

Find out more at Liahona Academy.

How Teens Respond to The Harsh Lessons of a Teen Boot Camp

Considering a troubled teen boot camp for your child? You may want to reconsider. It could do more harm than good. According to Lilienfeld et al, “Controlled studies show that boot camp and “Scared Straight” interventions are ineffective, and even potentially harmful for delinquents.”

Parents often send their teens to a boot camp when they are at their wit’s end. Their child may have gotten into legal trouble, and they want to show them that if they don’t change their ways, life could end up being much harder.

The problem is that this expectation of teenage boot camps isn’t true. Michael Ungar, Ph.D. reports that half of these programs resulted in kids being more likely to reoffend. The reason is because there is oftentimes no counseling or aftercare treatment. The teens simply go into the program to be yelled at, worked hard, and then sent on his/her way. The only lesson learned is that their parents sent them away to be treated badly.

Kathryn Rudlin, LCSW says that “the biggest disadvantage is the boot camps do not generally include therapeutic programs. They are not designed to deal with the underlying emotional or behavioral problems most troubled teens are struggling with. For teens struggling with depression, anxiety, self-harm, drug abuse, low self-esteem, and many other problems, this is an extreme option. It is most likely going to make their problems worse.”

Troubled teens need help uncovering what is causing them to act out, and then work on incorporating positive reactions to life situations. This doesn’t come out of harsh lessons taught at boot camps, it comes from caring, therapeutic residential treatment centers.

How Residential Treatment Centers Help

Residential treatment centers that offer therapeutic programs help troubled teens understand why their parents have sent them there – because they love and care about them, and want them to find out why they are making bad choices. Troubled teens are much more likely to talk when a therapist or counselor speaks to them about their emotions and thoughts. Through this work in therapy, troubled teens can start to understand why their parents have been so upset and what they need to do to get back on a good path in life.

Residential treatment centers or boarding schools for troubled teens are gentle and effective. Most troubled teens need love, understanding, and patience as they try to figure out what is going on inside of them and what they need to do to fix it. Teen boot camps simply shut the door on that discovery, which isn’t just ineffective, but could lead to worse behavior shortly after returning home.

Family Activities for Bonding With Troubled Teens

When you have a troubled teen, bonding with them parent-to-child and as a family is even more important than ever for re-establishing family bonds. And don't forget the role that grandparents can play!

Family Therapy

Families with a troubled teen understand that the troubled teen doesn't just negatively affect himself--his behavior affects the whole family. A residential treatment center like Liahona Academy understands the importance of treating the whole family in helping troubled teens. We assist in helping your family forge better communication and establish stronger bonds through family therapy sessions, alone and in groups.

Helping a teen boy in a residential treatment facility also involves teaching him how to be a fully-functioning member of a healthy family. Boys in treatment at Liahona Academy, though they may be separated from the family for awhile, are still taught how to re-connect with their family upon their return home. They are given the tools to help them respect the family unit and act in accordance with that respect.

Family Activities

Once a boy does return home from residential therapy, he will have been taught the tools to help him re-connect with family members and establish healthier communication at home. But he certainly can't do it alone! The entire family needs to aid in the re-bonding process.

Family activities that promote bonding with troubled teens include activities that encourage face-to-face interaction. In other words, going to a movie doesn't really count, because it doesn't foster communication. Instead, take your troubled teen and his siblings camping or hiking, or anywhere technology use is either limited or completely unavailable. Play a board game as a family, and leave the cell phones in a basket. Let your teen help plan a family vacation you can all enjoy. But it doesn't have to be fancy. Nightly family dinners are a great bonding activity!

Grandparent interaction can be a huge benefit to a troubled teen:

  • go to a movie or concert together
  • look at old family pictures together and share all the fun memories you have
  • offer to be your teen grandchild's driving instructor
  • plan a grandparent/grandchild vacation together
  • find a hobby you can enjoy together

Whatever family activities you come up with, enjoy spending time together and let your troubled teen feel that he is still a much-loved and important member of the family.

Encouraging Your Teen’s Positive Interests

When our kids are born, it's easy to assume that they will like all the same things we like and do all the things we'd love for them to do. But we quickly learn that they are their own selves--complete with their own set of likes and dislikes. Sometimes our kids do enjoy some of the same hobbies that we do, and that's great. But what about all the times that they don't?

Encourage Your Teen's Curiosity

One of the the most important things to do as a parent is encourage your teen to try those positive things they are curious about, such as different sports, classes at school, and interesting hobbies. You can start easy by sharing your own passions with your teen, but be flexible about it. Allow them the chance to decide if it's for them. If it isn't, allow them the opportunity to try something else that ignites their curiosity--even if it's something you don't personally enjoy. At Liahona Academy, we encourage our teen clients to try new hobbies because it builds their self-esteem.

Understand Who Your Teen Is

Is your teen introverted or extroverted? Understanding this and helping your teen to understand it about themselves will aid in supporting and encouraging their positive interests. For example, a naturally introverted teen may find a lot of happiness and satisfaction in reading great novels, writing stories and poems, or creating works of art. An extroverted teen is more likely to enjoy team sports or dance competition. The most important thing to remember is that there is nothing wrong with either one!

If your teen needs a stay in a therapeutic boarding school like Liahona Academy, know that we strive to understand your teen and provide recreational activities that challenge and encourage him to be his best self.

Why Your Support is Important

Teens can be hard on each other. Peers can have a lot of negative impact on your teen's life, but you can counteract that by being present. Parents have the opportunity to spend evening and weekend hours with their teens, and studies show that teens value their parents' support and encouragement more than anyone else's! They want nothing more than to be loved and validated by their parents, so your encouragement means the world to them. Attending your teen's football games or dance competitions and calling out "way to go!" or "great play!" may seem like a small thing they don't really notice or care about, but they actually do. The impact of your positive affirmations and encouragement is that your teen will begin to believe in himself.

Teaching Your Teen That Struggle Can Be a Launch Pad for Success

The wise poet Maya Angelou once said, "You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it."

As adults, we know how true a statement this is. But why is it so hard to teach it to our kids? Teens need to learn before they become adults, that struggle can actually be a launch pad for success. Let's take a look at how we can better fulfill this important need.

Teens Who Struggle

Everyone struggles to some degree, but some teens seem to want to make their lives harder than they need to be. Some of the struggle can come from their own choices, and some is just a part of life. But whatever the reason, teens who are really struggling with life, school, and relationships sometimes need extra help that we as parents just can't give--but it's not for lack of trying! Outside help can be a good thing--it doesn't have to be viewed as a sign of parental failure. Liahona Academy excels at giving teen boys who struggle the professional help to turn those struggles into strengths.

Why You Should Let Teens Struggle

We all know that failure can be painful, and watching our kids fail is tough. And when you just want your teen to be happy, it seems that allowing them to struggle would be directly opposite of that. However, what kids really need is the chance to face a little hardship and learn that they can come out on top. Getting the best of a problem and overcoming it is just as self-rewarding to a teen as is it to an adult. It's important not to deprive our teens of the chance to feel this sense of accomplishment. Not allowing our teens to struggle actually has the potential to stifle their self-confidence.

The Role of Therapy

For teens who need that extra help that only therapy can provide, there is a residential treatment option found at Liahona Academy. At Liahona Academy, the focus is on helping teen boys turn those struggles into strength and success. This is achieved through hands-on, real-world activities where they can begin to experience the successes that all teens need to build self-confidence. Therapy can help your teen with a foundation of good habits that will in turn help them convert those struggles into lifetime success.

How A Boot Camp Strategy Isn’t the Best Way to “Straighten Out” Your Aggressive Teen

For a while it was the latest fad. Unruly teens were sent to a boot camp in order to “straighten them out.” Some of those boot camps are still in existence today. In fact, many exist in several locations within the United States. In recent years, however, professionals have come to think poorly of the boot camp strategy. The notion of scaring the wits out of teenagers in order to curb their aggression is no longer viewed as a viable alternative.

According to a recent report, these boot camps aren’t particularly safe environments into which to send aggressive and troubled teens. Not all of these boot camps are accredited, and even some that are likely shouldn’t be. Lack of accreditation has resulted in the hiring of staff members with criminal backgrounds including domestic abuse and sexual abuse.

The discipline at these boot camps is often unsafe. Discipline measures used in the past have included making teens go for long periods of time without sustenance. Food and water has been withheld. Physical abuse, including electro-shock therapy has been implemented, as have tasing, choking and beatings. This doesn’t teach discipline. It teaches violence instead. No aggressive teenager should be subjected to these means of so-called discipline.

Psychological abuse has also been documented in some of these boot camps. Solitary confinement and humiliation will serve only to increase the aggression in an aggressive teenager. In addition to the aforementioned means of “discipline,” teens at these boot camps have also endured sexual molestation and rape, as well as endless verbal abuse.

In recent years, some parents have been tricked into signing over custody of their teens to these boot camps. No facility worth its salt will ever ask parents to give up their children. Parents must always scrutinize any and all papers they sign—especially where their children are concerned—and consider getting legal advice if anything appears amiss.

Because of hiring unskilled staff members, many of these boot camps mandate “one size fits all” methods of treatment. Aggressive teens may be a unique group, but no two are exactly alike. These kinds of treatment can actually do more harm than good. Troubled teenagers require treatment by trained professionals. They deserve treatment that is specifically designed for their particular needs.

Even if you’ve reached the end of your rope with your aggressive teen, a boot camp definitely isn’t the best way to “straighten them out.” In fact, they probably shouldn’t even be on your radar. Instead, consider troubled teen boarding schools, which have programs that help your teenager understand why he acts the way he does, so he can make safe, healthy changes for a brighter future.

Modern Methods Used to Re-establish Communication With a Boy Fresh Out of a Program

You and your teen: you are two different people, with two different perspectives, plus the added problem of your teen's stay in a residential treatment program. So when he gets out, how in the world do you re-establish communication with him, in a way that is hopefully better than it was before?

Thankfully, there are methods to help you re-establish that connection. Let's take a closer look at better communication with your teen.

Communication Basics

It can be hard to communicate with a teen on the best of days, but throw in behavioral issues that need addressing, and you might feel like you're butting your head against the proverbial wall. There are some tips you can use to help turn those communication woes into successes:

  • be calm--don't let your emotions get the best of you!
  • seek first to understand, then to be understood
  • ask genuine questions and really listen to the answers
  • don't expect your teen to validate your opinions

In other words, don't strike up an important conversation with your teen when you know your mood or his isn't the best. Before you try to make your teen see your point of view, try understanding where your teen is coming from. From personal experience, it may even alter what you think you need to say. Instead of asking loaded questions that have a real potential to make the conversation go south, ask genuine questions and then listen to what your teen has to say. Finally, don't expect your teen to change his mind or validate your own opinions. Agree to disagree if you have to, just try to keep the peace and stay calm.

Re-establishing Communication

After some state-of-the-art therapy for your teen, it's more important than ever to re-establish communication as he returns home and re-enters the family and regular life. As you implement the communication basics above, there are some "modern methods" you can use to help open the lines of communication. And it just might surprise you!

Texting is one modern method of communication, and despite what it may seem, it is not the number one preferred method of teen communication! According to PR Daily, 58% of teens said that they prefer to meet and communication in person. That is followed quite distantly by texting, with only 28% of teens citing it as their preferred method of communication. Talking by telephone and messaging on Facebook got 5% each.

What does this mean to parents? Your teen wants your time--face-to-face communication with you. So as your teen returns from residential treatment, don't underestimate the power of a face-to-face conversation where you both seek to understand each other, ask genuine questions, and then really listen to the answers. If you need to, you can continue to open the lines of communication via text when it is not possible to have a face-to-face conversation.

Activities For Youth That Promote Leadership Qualities

It can be difficult to raise children to become leaders. It seems as though many children are content to be followers and not leaders. So it is up to you as the parent to help your child develop their leadership abilities.

Along with setting a good example and encouraging leadership qualities, there are activities which promote leadership qualities. By utilizing activities, your child is more likely to naturally pick up the leadership traits you are hoping to encourage.

Team-Based Activities Which Develop Leadership

Having your teen participate in team-based activities is a great way to give them leadership development opportunities. While there are some team activities where your child could fall back and allow others to lead, we want to recommend activities which require all participants to hold their own.

  • Sports - Participating with a team can develop not only a healthy work ethic but also boost your child’s self-esteem and ability to work with others. If your child struggles with aggressive tendencies, we do not recommend contact sports like football.
  • Academic teams - There are a variety of academic teams your teen can participate in. Many are structured with different subject focuses so all students have a chance to shine. Debate teams, in particular, can help your child develop strong speaking skills and effective communication tactics.
  • Camp - Asides from helping your teen learn that they will not die if they don’t have all their technology, camp allows children to learn new skills in a safe environment. Most camps emphasize self-reliance, creative activities, and teamwork.
  • Clubs - By the time your child enters middle school, there are generally school-sponsored clubs for them to participate in. Some clubs we recommend are: environmentally-focused clubs, humanitarian clubs, and other service-based clubs. By looking outside themselves, teens can organically learn that they need to be strong leaders to help others. If there is no club which interests your teen on their school campus, look into your community.

Individual Activities Can Promote Leadership Qualities

Team-based activities are not the only ones which can help your teen develop leadership qualities. Many individual pursuits can encourage desirable leadership traits.

  • Music - Whether your child is part of a musical group or an individual performer, they can develop leadership qualities. However, individual musical pursuits are more effective in this respect. Your teen will have to hone their talents on their own, become used to standing strong while performing and practicing alone, and set individual growth goals. Teens can take pride in accomplishments and develop their independence.
  • Job - Being a good worker and leader is an individual experience and does not require a job that emphasizes teamwork. Your teen can take pride in creating jobs like mowing neighbors’ lawns and babysitting or working for someone else. Earning money and learning to manage it wisely can be very empowering for your teen. Teens with jobs can also develop a strong work ethic sooner than many of their peers.

Creating Great Leaders At Liahona

Part of Liahona Academy’s mission is to help troubled teen boys become confident young men who are ready to lead. Many of our activities focus on developing the teens in our program into people who can be relied on to lead at work, school, and in their personal lives. So you can feel confident when your son enters our program, he can return to you as a dependable leader.

When The Nice Girls Have To Fight Off The “Mean Girls” In Today’s School System

Being a nice girl isn’t always easy; sometimes, you have to deal with a group of mean girls in school, which can be one of the most difficult things to do. When you’re the parent of a girl who is getting bullied by other girls, it can be hard to help her cope, but here are some ideas to make life a little easier for her.

Listen to Her

It can be so difficult to listen to your daughter talk about her problems and not try to solve them right away. But this can start to make her feel like she isn’t really being heard or that her problems have an easy solution. Instead, start by listening. Let her get out all of her frustrations by just venting. Try not to solve the problem right away, and after she manages to talk about it, she really will start to feel a little better.

Choose Your Words Carefully

When your daughter is done telling you about the issues at school, make sure to choose your words carefully. Very Well gives a few tips on advice parents can tell their daughters in a mean girl situation, including

  • “Remember to stay strong and to be confident in yourself.”
  • “Don’t just respond right away when they are making fun of you. Think about what you’re going to say back. This is a way of having control over the situation.”
  • “Don’t let this take your focus away from school. After all, you’re there to learn.”

Show Her Support

Another one of the best ways to help her is just to remind her that you understand her feelings, you care about her, and you will always be there to listen and support her. This problem might not be solved overnight, so showing her you’re there for her will make all the difference in the world.

Help Her Recognize Good Friends from Bullies

iMom gives this advice: teach your daughter to be able to recognize the difference between bullies and friends. Help her learn that people who truly care about her won’t behave this way. Then, dig deeper as to why these mean girls have been so cruel. Remind her that bullies often act out because they are attempting to control their own situations and are doing so in the wrong way.

Additional Support for Parents

Parenting a teen is not easy, especially girls. There's a lot of support for parents, so don't think twice reaching out for it.

​Gift Giving During The Holidays – How Much Is Too Much?

There are basic rules to follow when it comes to giving baby shower gifts, wedding presents, and other structured events. But there seem to be no rules around holiday gift giving, especially when it comes to children.

Should parents lavish gifts on their children and make the holidays memorable? Or is it better to give a few quality presents? There is also the “naughty or nice” conundrum. Many parents threaten to take away presents if a child is naughty, though it is unsure if those parents follow through with this threat.

We have found through our work with troubled youth, overly indulged teens tend to struggle with various issues. So if you are considering packing in the presents this year, consider some of our research on why that may not be in the best interest of your teenager.

Materialism Can Disrupt Mental Health

Most parents work hard to provide for their children. They want to be able to give their children everything. But this can have destructive side-effects. Research has been done looking into psychological costs of material wealth. Children who have parents activity pursuing wealth have been found to struggle with:

  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Anxiety
  • Self-esteem

Two of the main factors that have been identified are:

  • Excessive parental pressure on children to succeed - Many parents want their children to reach a higher level of success than the parents were able to reach. However, this pressure may push children away from their actual dreams so the children can pursue their parent's vision.
  • Children feeling isolated from parents - While the goal of many affluent parents pursuing money is to provide for their families, children just see that their parents are not around. Buying lavish gifts for holidays can’t make up for missing all the other days in the year.

Rather than working yourself into the ground to justify buying more presents, try to be more present in your child’s life. Engage in activities with your kids and give them the greatest gift - the gift of your time.

Ways To Alter Holiday Gift-Giving

Not all is lost if you have previously engaged in holiday gift-giving blowouts. We have some ideas you can implement to help shift your children away from the more material aspects of the holidays.

  • Serve others - While many soup kitchens are booked far in advance for holiday service, there are ways your family can serve others. Caroling neighbors and nursing homes, shoveling snow for others, and adopting a family in need for the holiday are some ways your family can move the focus away from gifts.
  • Gifting limits - Set limits on presents. It can be tempting to just keep adding to the present pile but avoid the temptation. Instead, set monetary limits, or mandate that all presents need to be homemade, or other limits as you see fit.
  • Talent-finding presents - Rather than buying the latest bit of tech, give your children the gift of talent exploration. Try giving each child some kind of creative supplies, like art supplies, instruments, and craft kits. Learning new skills can boost your child’s self-esteem.

So while we can’t give you a hard number on how many presents are too many, consider the effects of focusing too much on materialism. If you are concerned that your family may be struggling with some of these materialism-related problems, we hope you can use some our solutions to help your children back on track.