There’s a Troubled Teen in the Family. What Should I Say?
You’ve watched this teen grow up from birth, and your love knows no bounds. But you also know that there have been problems, and now things have reached a crisis point and his or her parents have made the decision to send their teen to a therapeutic boarding school. It can be awkward to know what to say.
First, recognize that it was a rough decision for your relatives to make. And it was a courageous one. Sending a child off somewhere for therapeutic help is usually the last resort when he or she is causing disruption in class or home, grades are failing, and siblings and parents are feeling the effects. But it’s certainly not an admission of failure or anything to be embarrassed about. It’s a forward-looking step toward setting a teen back on the right track.
So what your relatives need right now isn’t mournful commiseration, but whole-hearted support. Sometimes it’s tough being a parent and it’s sure difficult to be a teenager in this day and age. Our technology-filled world provides a constant stream of social activity, confusion, and possibly bullying to today’s teens, twenty-four hours a day. This pressure can exacerbate personal challenges a teen is experiencing, like a learning disability, mental or social behavior disorders, addictions, or just rampaging hormones.
A therapeutic facility provides a fresh perspective in a brand new environment away from the triggers of old behavior while it combines individual counseling and unique instruction to help a teens achieve their full potential. At private schools for troubled youth, kids have the benefit of continuing their academic studies while learning new skills and exploring new aspects of themselves.
Teachers at these facilities are practiced at engaging reluctant students in traditional subjects, and the days are filled out with creative activities, sports and other pastimes that build confidence and encourage healthy interpersonal relationships.
So what do you say to his or her parents when a young person is away from home at a therapeutic boarding school ? Here are some suggestions:
“How Are Things Going at Home?”
Understand that some people aren’t quick to talk about what’s going on in their private lives, but for others, it can be a great relief to let their hair down. Let your relatives know you recognize that things are different at their house these days and that you’re available to be a safe sounding board. Don’t approach it as if something shameful has happened in the family, because it hasn’t.
“How Is Your Son or Daughter Doing?”
Ignoring the situation doesn’t make it disappear. It might feel easier just not to mention the child who’s away, but it’s a constant on the minds of his or her parents. Talking around the elephant in the room is only going to make things worse. Express your genuine interest in the process and be encouraging about every bit of progress they reports.
If your own teen is getting straight A’s and has just been chosen as king or queen of the prom, you can certainly acknowledge it if asked, but keep it in perspective. People can see right through false modesty, but you might remind your relative that all kids are different and take their own routes to becoming successful adults. Life isn’t a zero sum game where one person’s success means another’s failure.
“Can I Send a Care Package?”
Reminders of loving family at home can go a long way toward easing unfamiliar surroundings. Ask if you can send your young relative a package with homemade treats he or she can share with roommates. Knowing you care enough will warm the child’s parents, too. (Schools probably have rules about what students can receive, so check them out first.)
“Let’s All Get Together for Some Fun.”
Your relatives might be feeling that having a good time without the child who’s away is somehow wrong. But keeping things feeling normal is a good thing. Don’t forget that siblings can have a hard time adjusting when one of them isn’t around, so they’d probably welcome a break, too. Have a barbecue or all go bowling — whatever will bring you all together for some easy fun.
To give yourself some background on therapeutic boarding schools, go to the website of the one your relatives’ teen is at, or read a bit here.