I have so many questions and concerns

Removing your teen from home is a struggle shared by others

IMG 8009 copy 300x195 I have so many questions and concernsEvery day we receive many inquiries from parents trying to find solutions for their struggling teen. Recently, a concerned mom wrote to our parent support group. She captured my attention because so many of her concerns are shared by others and I felt like the alumni parent that responded to her also represented the community of parents that understand and are trying to find their way through the rigors of parenting.

“I am the mother of a 16 year old son.  We are in the midst of trying to discern if Shelterwood Academy would be the best place for our son right now.  We have reached a point at home that we feel unable to help him.  He is failing school although he is very bright, angry with God, angry with his family, and has been stealing money from us.  In fact he has become verbally abusive to our whole family.  We have been through numerous counselors, a psychologist, his pediatrician, pastor, etc. and no one has been able to help.  He has been accepted to Shelterwood, but as a mom, I am so torn with sending him away.  I was hoping to be in touch with a few parents to see how they dealt with this decision, what behaviors in their child led them to this decision, how the child felt about being sent to a therapeutic boarding school, and ultimately the result? Were you able to get the family counseling from Shelterwood that helped restore the relationship between you and your son?  Was coming home difficult for your son, and have the changes he made continued, as he has remained home?  Anything that you could tell me, regarding your experience would be so helpful.  I know your heart has been where mine is now, and I think it would help if I could hear from another parent who has been there.” Thanks, Concerned mom

You are in such a tough place and I ache for you because I’m sure every day for your family is a roller coaster ride from what you described. Yes, we were in a similar condition and made the decision around thanksgiving time, but I couldn’t let go of our “holiday”.  Our son told us he wouldn’t go there and we’d need to have him taken by cops (transport agency), so we did just that and it worked much smoother than I could have ever imagined. We did exactly what the service said to do and it worked. Our son was surprisingly calm by the time they got him there and cordial to us until the counselor let us say goodbye and then he lashed out in hate. Didn’t know if he’d ever speak to us again, but we had to pursue this for our other child and for our marriage…

Ten months later and a lot of emotional work, a few bumps and he came home. It has been working and I would do exactly the same thing again. It isn’t perfect, but we grow and work through things much better and he is scheduled to graduate high school in May and go on a mission trip to Nepal in July!!!

You have done so much for your son, if you can possibly give him the gift of a chance to go to Shelterwood Academy, follow their system and heal, God will bless you in a mighty way. If you do decide to send him, DO NOT PULL him at any cost or problem. Please work through the bumps and commit to see it through. I watched too many do the opposite and so did our son. He even said in his parting speech, “stop asking your parents to pull you and succeed in this.”

I’ve probably left a lot out, but will pray for you and would definitely appreciate a call from you even if we cry together. It shows what a great parent you are because you are even investigating this!
God bless you!

Shelterwood Academy Alumni

Therapeutic boarding schools

SW Arch 22 Edit copy 300x198 Therapeutic boarding schoolsWhen is it time to take the plunge?

There are no strict guidelines as to when parents should choose residential treatment as a placement option for their teen. Generally speaking, teens enter residential treatment when their needs are too intense to be managed with outpatient treatment.

When we receive referrals from an outpatient counselor, usually one or more of the following issues is taking place:

  • Outpatient treatment has failed to contain the symptoms and increasing the intensity and/or the frequency of counseling contacts has not stemmed the tide of distress and dysfunction.
  • Available emotional resources for support from friends and family have become depleted or drained, leaving the teen with a lack of support during periods of heightened symptomatology.
  • There is no clear indication for acute inpatient hospitalization.
  • There is considerable diagnostic ambiguity that may be clarified or eliminated by regular or round-the-clock observations in a safe environment—for example, to determine whether a behavioral disturbance is the result of a rapid-cycling mood disorder or concealed substance abuse.
  • There are safety issues, such as escalating levels of substance abuse, disordered eating or purging behaviors, or self-injurious behaviors, that may be reduced in a controlled (but not necessarily locked) treatment milieu that features round-the-clock behavioral observations.

Therapeutic boarding schools fill a gap between outpatient treatment and inpatient hospitalization. But often the medical environment is simply not an effective intervention for most adolescent development issues. A hospital can feel impersonal, short, detached, expensive, and create a label for your teen that will be difficult for them to move past. Outpatient counseling can also feel impersonal to your teen as they tolerate it in an effort to simply get by each week. Unless your teen is motivated to change, outpatient counseling does not have sufficient structure and oversight to require a teen to ‘try change.’ The mere attendance in a weekly session can lull you as a parent into believing something is happening even though no real progress is being made.

Many teens confess when they arrive at Shelterwood that they are desperate for this kind of inpatient therapeutic help. While they might not admit it to their parents, most students realize that without a firm intervention that removes them from their environment, they had no ability to ‘self heal.’ As long as it was possible to avoid change, they were committed to avoiding it. But once they felt the warmth, support, and duration of a therapeutic boarding school, they let their guard down and tried on new ways to live.