Five ways to help your teen release stress and relieve anger

Of all the emotions your teen faces, anger can pose a unique challenge. Releasing anger in heated moments is no small feat. Anger is a difficult emotion, particularly when coupled with stress. Show your teen how much you care by coming alongside them, helping them to relieve anger and release stress. Here are five ways to guide your teen towards a healthy response to relieving anger and releasing stress:

1.) Model healthy habits for your teen when you are angry.

Even when we may not realize it, teens are watching how we respond to challenges. So, in moments of frustration and anger, seize the opportunity. When you take responsibility for your own emotions, you show your teen what a good response in a tough moment can look like. Anger can be a healthy reaction to an injustice, and personally, anger can be good when it’s expressed in a focused way instead of using it to harm or punish others. Take a break from the situation to cool down, or channel your anger into something productive, like exercise. If you do overreact — after all, we are only human! — own your emotions and use the moment as a springboard for discussion.

2.) Table the conversation for the moment.

We all know the feeling: sometimes, when all we feel is outrage, we simply need to cool down. Give your teen space in a moment of anger. This shows your teen that you respect their emotions enough to wait until they are ready to share. A few minutes of quiet can deescalate the situation. Particularly if the anger is in response to a conflict between you and your teen, taking time to cool off can turn the tide. Once the tension has lifted, maintain an open mind as you enter into conversation.

3.) Acknowledge the root of how your teen is feeling.

More often than not, there is something deeper beneath your teen’s anger. Chances are, something stressful has happened and this angry moment is a delayed reaction, or the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” so to speak. Particularly if your teen is rebelling, the key is in getting to the root of the cause. Parent from a place of love, engage a support system when you need it and communicate with consistency. If you worry that your teen may be in the middle of a difficult season, here are some signs.

4.) Truly listen to what your teen has to share.

Listening can be a difficult aspect of communication, especially with a struggling teen. When your teen does share, take the time to be present and listen well. Reserve your own opinions for the moment; simply showing your teen that you can be a trusted sounding board can help your teen calm down and relieve anger.

5.) Be aware of patterns in anger, because it could be a symptom of something bigger.

The National Alliance on Mental Health reports that a staggering one in five children ages 13 – 18 live with a mental health condition. Although your teen may appear angry on the surface, this emotion could indicate a serious problem, like anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, drug abuse or alcohol abuse. If you suspect this could be the case, expand the conversation past the moment at hand and start the conversation about mental health.

If you are worried about your teen’s anger, it may be time to get help. Consider Shelterwood, a  residential treatment agency. We combine boarding school excellence with the best in therapeutic care for real transformation. At Shelterwood, our desire is to create an environment where teens know they are loved, valued and have purpose. Today can be a turning point for your teen and your family. Take the first step towards real restoration. Contact us now: 866.585.8939.

Announcing our successful re-accreditation

Shelterwood is pleased to announce our official AdvancED re-accreditation, awarded in July 2017. This five-year designation builds on our previous 20 years of accreditation, and affirms our commitment to academic excellence and ongoing improvement. “This is something we are very excited about,” shares Shelterwood Principal John Lawrence. “As we continue to make our school better through accreditation, we help our students to grow and learn.”

AdvancED (formerly North Central), with more than 100 years of work in school accreditation, is unique in its commitment to not simply certify a program, but help schools improve. AdvancED accredits more than 32,000 schools worldwide. While the organization no longer offers levels or tiers of accreditation, schools do receive an overall score, also known as the Index of Educational Quality (IEQ). The average score for an accredited institution is 278.34; Shelterwood received a mark significantly above average, at 353.85. This is 27% above average.

“This is a holistic measure of an institution’s performance, and it is a formative tool for us,” Mr. Lawrence explains. “The IEQ, and all the elements that go into it, help us understand our areas of strength, as well as our areas for strategic focus.”

The AdvancED team makes their accreditation decision following a rigorous campus visit. The time on campus included visits to classrooms, as well as discussions with staff, parents, administration, students and board members. Shelterwood was evaluated in three areas: teaching and learning, leadership capacity and resource utilization.

“The team found that we have some unique instructional challenges, as we serve students with a wide range of academic levels, from remedial to accelerated, as well as students with high emotional needs,” Mr. Lawrence adds.

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The team remarked that Shelterwood’s purpose played out in every aspect of the school, from academics to counseling to mentorship and everything in between. “They were able to see what our purpose was in everything, and how we’re striving to restore families and help students, doing whatever it takes so these students can be successful.” The team also noted Shelterwood’s tight coordination of student support services and the culture of teamwork as “powerful practices.”

Shelterwood’s re-accreditation means that students’ course credits are accepted by many institutions and easily transferrable. This creates a more seamless transition back home, and helps set students up to be on track academically after Shelterwood. “We can provide students with credits that will transfer to pretty much anywhere, even including universities further down the line,” Mr. Lawrence explains.

Ultimately, Mr. Lawrence says, “the purpose of the AdvancED visit is not only to validate our work here, but also to help us in school improvement. Their visit helps us to prioritize our school improvement plan. It is a good feeling to know when you are doing things right, but AdvancED also gives us direction to address what is important.”

Reflections on Haiti

Shelterwood Mentors dedicate a year of their life to serving our teens as they journey towards restoration. These young adult men and women disciple our students — but it’s a journey for the Mentors as well. While Mentors help develop teens, they are growing in their own spiritual walk. Mentor and Assistant House Director Stephen Green shares his reflection on how God changed his heart during the Shelterwood mission trip to an orphanage in Haiti.


“As I got on the plane and began the final flight to Haiti, I felt my emotions begin to rise up into my nasal cavity and over take my face like a fever. I played music to distract myself but it only aided in turning the knobs that unlocked the waterworks. I felt the Spirit move in with His scalpel and all I could do was sit and let Him cut me open as I began my ascent to 30,000 ft. Despite my resistance, God had called me to go to Haiti and in my reluctant obedience He was able to put me right where He wanted me. Haiti was His seven-day project on my heart and He wasn’t going to waste a minute of it.

That night, I chatted with various members of my team, including the students that we brought along with us. I still felt the heaviness of the Spirit doing his work on me, and it was anything but pleasant. I was approached by a beloved friend, Kyle, who expressed the desire to speak later concerning what was going on with me. Little did I know that he would be the instrument by which God would begin to really remove the junk out of my heart and then also be the stitches that closed my open wound.

Looking back, I can only say that the moment was one of providence. I had been set up through circumstances and various different elements of my life leading up to that conversation. My journey to that moment could not be limited to the afternoon flight and orphan visit. No, it had been in progress over the course of many months. Everything was somehow connected. The healing I sought was not what I thought I wanted, but was more than I could have asked for. It was irony. It was inconvenient. It was Haiti. It was friendship. Lastly, it was unbridled and courageous confession.

With each orphanage we visited, I found the Spirit drawing me out and doing something in me. On the second day we went to a town called Hinch where I met this beautiful little boy named Miguel. He stayed with me the entire time and, unlike several others, didn’t care that I had nothing to offer. He wanted to be loved and he wanted to show love. We met each other exactly where we needed. We gave each other time and we spent our time being grateful that we had someone else that existed to spend time together.

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In Les Miserables there is a line stated multiple times that “to love another person is see the face of God.” The next day I met Brianna. That precious girl that I had the privilege of pushing on the swing went out of her way to find me and be with me. In a time when I felt unloved and unlovable, God sent me two beautiful, innocent little kids for me to love and love me in return. In the midst of my darkness, God brought me a little light.

I want to love well. That is my heart’s desire! I am, however, tainted by sin and by suffering and lack what is needed to truly love well. Haiti broke into a part of me that had been walled up. Even though I still suffer and I still struggle with all of my insecurity, I long to love others and to bring them to a place of healing and show them there is more to life than sitting in their pain and suffering. There is life that lies beyond their circumstances. There is healing.”

Show your gratitude during Shelterwood’s Week of Thanks

At Shelterwood, everything we do is focused on real hope, real heart change and real restoration for families. Every day, new stories of transformation are written on our campus. Our families and graduates continue to tell us why they are so thankful for the impact of Shelterwood — and now, you are invited to share why YOU are thankful.

April 20 – 28, 2017, is our second Shelterwood Week of Thanks. Please join us in sharing why YOU give thanks for Shelterwood. It is easy to show your gratitude — and to help spread the word about the real hope and real restoration that teens and families find at Shelterwood.

How to participate:

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Download the Shelterwood Week of Thanks page here. In need of inspiration? Explore how just a few of our staff, students, graduates and families expressed their gratitude during our first Shelterwood Week of Thanks.

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When you share your own gratitude, other families see the real transformation that can happen at Shelterwood. Please join us in our Week of Thanks and share the impact Shelterwood has made for you. Post your picture to the Shelterwood Facebook page, April 20 – 28.

Introducing the Shelterwood Parent Portal

Everything we do at Shelterwood is focused on restoring families. Placing a teen in a therapeutic boarding school  is one of the most difficult decisions a parent can make, but it’s a decision that is courageous and loving — and one way we support families is by keeping them engaged and informed every step of the way. One tool we use to keep parents connected to their teen’s progress is our Shelterwood Parent Portal.

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The Parent Portal helps families stay connected to their teen’s progress at Shelterwood.

This online resource is the hub for family communication, with features designed to move the entire family forward in the treatment process and prepare for a successful transition back home. “Parent Portal is an online tool that helps us interact with parents better than ever,” explains Stephen Hobson, Shelterwood Director of Accounting. “This is a tool that helps us not only engage with parents while their child is in the Shelterwood program, but also empower parents for when their child returns home.”

The Parent Portal was designed specifically for therapeutic boarding schools. The program was spearheaded by Tim R. Thayne, PhD., author of the how to boost teen’s success in and after treatment book, Not By Chance. “The portal has built-in assignments for parents based on this book, so parents are equipped for their son or daughter’s transition back home,” Stephen explains.

The user-friendly portal has a wide variety of features, including:

  • A team blog, where parents and therapists can communicate and share announcements
  • A parent resource library, with educational and encouraging parent assignments
  • A message hub, so parents and therapists can communicate seamlessly
  • A photo album, where family can see what their teen is up to each day
  • A calendar, including upcoming Shelterwood events
  • Academic and therapeutic reports, so parents are always aware of their teen’s progress

The Parent Portal offers pathways for engagement for more than just parents — it is a resource for everyone on the “home team.” This includes anyone who might be involved in the treatment process: other family members, therapists at home, pastors, educational consultants, doctors, case managers, coaches and more. This offers a way to stay updated and informed, bolstering the family support system for when a teen returns home.

Best of all, the parent portal keeps the family at the center of treatment. Stephen sums up the benefits of this powerful tool this way, “This parent portal keeps parents connected to what’s going on with their child, and encouraged as their teen makes progress at Shelterwood.”

Meet Jessica Wood

Jessica Wood, Clinical Director at Shelterwood Academy, loves seeing families restored and relationships rebuilt. Get to know Jessica.

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What Jessica loves most about Shelterwood: Jessica points to the sense of community throughout Shelterwood. “This is a very compassionate environment in which to work, and the importance of family is communicated to our residents and our staff,” she says.

When she was a teen: Growing up in a small town in South Dakota, Jessica loved her strong support system, including her family, friends and youth group. “I also encountered some of the struggles teens today do, and I really leaned on that support system,” she says. Jessica also enjoyed being actively involved in school, clubs and sports, including volleyball and basketball.

We all scream for ice cream: Jessica’s father owned a Dairy Queen in their small town, and Jessica worked there as a teen. She still loves working with ice cream today, especially baking ice cream cakes. Her favorite flavor? Chocolate chip cookie dough.

Before Shelterwood: Jessica earned her doctorate in Psychology (Psy.D.) from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology and is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist for the state of Missouri. She spent more than eight years in residential therapy for children and adolescents. “While I have always loved working with adolescents, I felt something was missing and wanted to incorporate a spiritual element into my work,” Jessica explains. Her family had relocated to the Kansas City area, and her sister-in-law mentioned Shelterwood. Jessica continued to explore Shelterwood and applied for the Clinical Director role. “From the location to my desire to incorporate spirituality into my practice, this was all God’s timing,” she smiles.

Her favorite part about being the Clinical Director: In her role, Jessica says, no two days are the same! “I enjoy getting to be involved in a variety of activities and handling a variety of responsibilities,” she says. She provides therapy to students and their families, explores training opportunities, tackles administrative duties and more. “I really enjoy the opportunity to have a caseload and provide therapy, but also to help others in our team grow. All of our therapists come from different backgrounds, and it is fun to see how it all works together to benefit our students.”

The most unique thing happening in Shelterwood counseling right now: “We’re constantly refining our approaches to therapy,” she says. “From sand therapy to equine therapy to experiential therapy, we’re always striving to advance the therapies we’re providing for our students.”

Family: Jessica has been married to her husband for two years. They have one daughter, Lily, who celebrates her first birthday this month.  

Outside work: Jessica loves staying active and working out. She also enjoys exploring the outdoors with her family, including going on walks. “I also love just relaxing at home as a family and snuggling Lily!” she smiles.  

Best part of her job at Shelterwood: “I love watching families heal and grow in their relationships,” Jessica says. “It is a difficult thing to have your child away from home, and the best part is to watch those reconnections built and those relationships restored.”

Why we go to Haiti

Each day at Shelterwood focuses on restoration for our students — but sometimes, the greatest transformation for Shelterwood students happens off campus. Sometimes, the biggest paradigm shift occurs on our Shelterwood mission trip to an orphanage in Haiti.

“I’ve seen our students come alive on this trip,” says Jim Subers, Shelterwood CEO. “Our kids are giving 110% to love and serve Haitian orphans. This is a unique mission trip unlike anything these kids have done before and what happens in this dramatic act of love is transformative for our kids and the orphans.”

This spring marked the ninth trip Shelterwood has taken to Haiti, in partnership with The Global Orphan Project. “We use domestic and foreign mission trips, as well as special retreats, as an opportunity to go after the hearts of our kids. Changing their environment and getting them out of the normal, day-to-day routine is an opportunity for their hearts to be impacted.”

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With the average student spending 11 months at Shelterwood, the twice-yearly Haiti trips provide a unique opportunity for each young person who chooses to go. As they serve and love these orphans, they receive love too. “Our kids experience unconditional love from these orphans,” Jim says. “It is beautiful.”

The goal of the trip is to love the Haitian orphans, spending time with them and playing with them. Jim points to a Bible verse in Matthew 25 — whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me. “When we love on orphans in a very real way, we are loving Jesus,” Jim says. Sharing this love has a life-changing impact on Shelterwood students.

The median income in the United States is $50,000 a year — and that income level represents the top 5% of the world’s population, Jim always explains to Shelterwood students. “When they arrive in Haiti, they’re immediately confronted with this reality. Students begin to reflect on what living in the United States really means, and what responsibilities they have along with this opportunity and privilege.”

The week long trip begins on a Wednesday, with students returning to the United States the following Tuesday. Each day concludes with the group processing the day’s events. “Students get to practice giving a word of encouragement and affirming each other every night. Our kids get to bless one another every day, and this is a highlight of our trip.

On Sunday, students attend a Haitian church service. “We get to watch another culture worship with fervor in what would be oppressive conditions for us in America — no air conditioning, high humidity, flies, hot temperatures. This causes our kids to really reflect . . . these people have nothing, but they are full of joy.”

The group spends their last day seaside, allowing students to experience the contrast in the beauty of the Haitian beach. Monday is the day that students have the opportunity to be baptized. Jim estimates that, over the course of Shelterwood’s nine trips, 50 students have been baptized. Nine students — including Jim’s own son — were baptized on this recent trip.

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“We want to provide the opportunity for young people to have a paradigm shift in their thinking. Many of our students don’t realize how uniquely blessed and privileged they are,” Jim says. “When they go to Haiti, our students come back with a much deeper appreciation for the choices, experiences and opportunities they have. This trip shows students who they are, who they want to be and how very loved they are.”

Meet John Lawrence, Shelterwood Academy Principal

John Lawrence is Principal at Shelterwood Academy. In everything he does at Shelterwood, he looks forward to the restoration of families. Get to know Mr. Lawrence.

Staff Portrait Crops 1 Meet John Lawrence, Shelterwood Academy Principal

What Mr. Lawrence loves most about Shelterwood: The community. “We’ve built a family around here. It’s not just staff, but students also. Our goal is to help every child, and we do so as a team.”

When he was a teen: “I spent a lot of time involved with my youth group as a kid and that was something that really defined me and allowed me to be where I am today,” Mr. Lawrence says. “I had a tough time as a kid, faced some of the same stressors kids do today. But I realized there are people who love me and a God who loves me. I learned to run to God and to have him guide me.”

Before Shelterwood: Mr. Lawrence earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Administration from California State University – San Bernardino, and his MS in Education from Walden University. He and his family are from Southern California, where he was a public school teacher. “I was teaching computers to 1,000 elementary school kids a week, and the impact I had on each kid was minimal,” Mr. Lawrence said. He asked the men in his Bible study to start praying for him. “I wanted to find something where I could use my skills to really impact people’s lives.”

What brought Mr. Lawrence to Shelterwood: When his father announced a move to Colorado, Mr. Lawrence started searching for job opportunities and found Shelterwood (which was located in Denver at the time). “God showed me that this is what He called me to do.” Mr. Lawrence took the Principal role and, three years later, moved to Missouri when Shelterwood relocated. He’s been with Shelterwood now for nearly 11 years.

What sets Shelterwood apart: “At Shelterwood, we have special needs kids, gifted kids . . . they run the gamut. The students at Shelterwood are just the same as the students I’ve always taught, and it’s the traditional classroom, but the real difference is they’re getting the help they need.

His favorite part about being Principal: “I’m part of a ministry here,” Mr. Lawrence says. “My job is about so much more than being a principal. I’m helping make an impact, and it’s been neat to help build a team of people who want to help kids not only in their education, but in their lives too.”

A parent of teens: His children were young when Mr. Lawrence began at Shelterwood, but they’re teenagers now, which gives him a unique understanding. “I know how parents are feeling and where they’re at — I’ve felt it too. I’ve seen the pain and hurt that teens can go through.”

The most unique thing happening in Shelterwood classrooms right now: “Most recently, we’ve been focusing on brain-based learning. We’re helping students learn how their brains actually function so they can best retain information, be engaged and understand concepts and key ideas.” Brain Based learning helps teachers interact strategically with students, from knowing how to get students up and moving around to direct interactions. “The little things can really help get them focused and complete their work. Using brain-based learning in the classroom helps students remember things longer, feel more successful, be more intrinsically motivated and have greater self esteem.”

New specialist: Students come to Shelterwood Academy from remedial and advanced levels, and all find academic success. The Academy serves gifted and advanced students, as well as those with special educational needs. Shelterwood recently added a special education teacher to its faculty, which also has Mr. Lawrence excited. “This teacher not only helps the students, but provides information to other teachers as well. We’ve grown by leaps and bounds and we’re serving our Special Ed kids better than ever.” 

Family: Mr. Lawrence is married to Jane, who works in the school office as School Registrar and also Executive Assistant to the President. They have two daughters, about to turn 14 and 16. Both are actively involved in their school marching bands, and they especially enjoy traveling to national competitions.

Outside work: “My life outside Shelterwood revolves around my kids,” Mr. Lawrence says. “Right now, my hobbies are participating with my kids, because I only get one chance at this. It’s all about having fun.” He enjoys working concessions at Chiefs, Royals and Sporting KC games to raise money for his daughters’ school bands. He and his wife are also involved as leaders in their church, Heartland Church in Blue Springs, MO.

Best part of his job at Shelterwood: For Mr. Lawrence, it’s all about restoration. “When a family comes into my office on intake day, I see how hurt they are. Being part of the change we can help with is exciting to me. And to see them fully restored is most exciting to me. It’s a result of our teamwork, and that’s what I love about this.”