Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Good Teens Making Bad Choices: What are the Summer Options?

Summer is almost here and the calls are coming in from parents that are struggling with what to do with their at-risk teens.

Some issues we are hearing:

  • Failing some classes, when they are more than capable of getting passing grades, if not straight A's.
  • Dropping out of their favorite sport or activity.
  • Smoking pot -- occasionally - though parents may blame it on the friends, please keep in mind, it is your child making the decision to inhale that joint or pop that pill.  
  • Drinking - again, it may be the friends you want to blame, but are they holding the bottle to your teen's mouth?
  • Sneaking out of the house.
  • Defiance, lying, stealing......
  • Maybe they have changed their peer group this year?
Let's face it, with a combination of any of these above, you could be traveling down a negative path.  Chances are very good a short-term summer program will not address a long term solution.

It can irritate me when I see parents get sucked into these very expensive Wilderness programs that give tell you they can turn your child around in 4-9 weeks.  Really?

I think if you interview most of the families that have dug deep  into their wallets and spent that $15K-20K on a Wilderness program (which is likely to have zero academics to get your child caught up), you will find that at about the 4 week point, the program is already prepping the family for the "next step" of a Therapeutic Boarding School or Residential Treatment Center (another $50K step).

Or if the family truly cannot afford, which I have spoken to many of them too, since they have spent their  last dime on this summer last ditch hope, they soon find that within 3-6 weeks after Wilderness, their  child is back to their old ways.  

What is the answer?  It depends on the child, but in most situations it is finding the right placement the first time around.  Not starting at one place - and "breaking him down" (aren't they already broken?) and breaking your wallet too, and then going to yet another to break your wallet again.

Most quality and qualified programs are designed to treat teens that come in with the anger and defiance.  There are excellent 6-8-10 month programs that can offer a complete package of academic's, emotional growth (clinical) and enrichment programs (which are so important to help stimulate your teen in a positive direction).

It is my opinion, and after almost thirteen years of watching parents and families in this big business of "teen help" get screwed (sorry for the slang) but until you walk my shoes and have taken the time to learn about what goes on behind the scenes - the word just about seems appropriate.

I firmly believe in getting our kids help, as a matter of fact, it is our responsibility as a parent to do that.  We also have to do our due diligent.

Google is not God -- the Internet has some very disturbing sites - and disgruntled kids, parents, employers. Yes, I was one of them, but I also have a lot of substantial legal facts behind my case.  I don't sit and rant.  As a matter of fact, I don't want to discuss it - I want to continue to educate parents about how they can find the best program for their child's needs.

I offer many great tips, questions to ask schools and programs and resources.  Visit