An inspirational 16-year-old's therapeutic boarding school journey to a new Life
Introduction: The Powerful Transformation of a Struggling Teenager
I received an email from a mom whose son I placed in a therapeutic boarding school last year when he was 15, her name is Amy.
Reading it brought me to tears. In her email, she included an article published in a Surfer magazine written by her son Jimmy. He recounts the effect therapeutic boarding school had on his life.
I immediately emailed her back and asked if I could share her email and Jimmy’s story with you, and thankfully she agreed.
Teenage Struggles: The painful Journey of Poor Choices
Amy is like most of the parents I work with. She spent years trying to help Jimmy. They would make progress. He would improve for a short while. Then he would go back to his bad habits or worse. She was worried and terrified for him. When a friend of his died of an overdose, she knew they had to take drastic measures.
The Change: Dealing with a Rebellious Teenager
According to Amy, Jimmy was in middle school when he lost interest in most things he enjoyed. He became critical of himself and began disrespecting his parents. Those behaviors were followed by experimenting with drugs and vaping.
Worried about Jimmy, she and her husband began family counseling, trying to learn how to deal with their rebellious and defiant son. While therapy helped them, their son’s depression didn’t improve, and in fact, his behavior worsened over time.
Amy and her husband struggled. Eventually, they decided to send their son away to a program for struggling teenagers.
Debunking Online Critics' Myths about Parenting Troubled Teens
I see it over and over again. Many parents try so hard to find answers. They search for counselors and programs to help their teens change their course and go back to being the good kid they knew before disrespecting, substance misuse, and self-harm began.
One of the biggest lies online is that these parents send their kids away because they don’t love their children. They don’t want to deal with the difficult child going to “normal” teenage rebellion. Worse yet, many judge them and accuse them of being bad parents. They see their inability to “control their teenagers” as a parental failure and not what it truly is.
These “online critics” in support groups and blogs don’t get that these parents love their children.
They love them so much that they’ve spent countless hours conversing, working with therapists and coaches, and shuttling their kids back and forth to activities, counselors, therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists, drug rehab, support groups and more.
Their lives become all about the one misbehaving kid at the expense of all the other family members and their relationships. These out-of-control kids create havoc in a household.
In the twenty-plus years I’ve been working with families. I’ve never met a parent who wanted to send his kid away. Deciding to send a teenager away to a boarding school or a therapeutic program is the hardest decision a parent ever makes.
Like Amy and her husband, often, the decision comes down to choosing whether your child will end up in jail, die or have a chance at living a happy, productive life.
An Emotional Rollercoaster: Navigating the Highs and Lows of Parenting Troubled Teens
The harsh reality confronting many parents is that they provide their children so many chances that their life becomes an emotional roller coaster. Riffled with peaks of joy and valleys of terrifying persistent fear.
Can you imagine what it feels like to experience a spectrum of emotions, spanning from intense dread and anxiety? Or is that where you are now?
Every parent I’ve helped in the last 20-plus year have one thing in common. They come to me asking for guidance because of the fear for their teenager’s well-being.
Always remember, there is absolutely no reason for you to feel guilty for choosing life for your child!
Don’t ever let anyone make you feel guilty for choosing to have your child live!
To illustrate this, let’s look at an email from a mom, Amy. She originally sent this email to me.
Amy was grappling with her teenager. I first met her through the Bily group.
Amy has graciously allowed me to share her story. You can view her original email and Jimmy’s article by clicking on the images below.
Choosing Life: A Mother's Struggle, Her Email, and the Hope for Troubled Teens
Amy's email transcript
“Towards the end of middle school and into our son’s freshman year, we noticed he lost interest in most of the things he enjoyed doing. He became very critical of himself and disrespectful to his family. He also started experimenting with drugs, marijuana, and vaping.
His dad and I started to see a counselor to gain the tools we needed to deal with our son. Yes, we gained some tools to be better parents; however, it didn’t help Jimmy from falling further into his depression. We were also introduced to BILY (Because I Love You), a support group for parents of troubled teens.
I can’t stress enough the importance of this group in helping us make very difficult but life-changing decisions for our family and our son! I recommend going to a couple of meetings so you can see you are not alone and their resources are numerous.
There were kids of all financial walks of life, kids who were socially challenged, kids experimenting with drugs, gaming and depression. We would take one step forward in helping our son and five steps back until we realized he needed help we could no longer offer him.
I should also note, we had some good friends who lost their son to drug addiction the year before and he reminded us so much of our son and his friends. He came from a good family and loved the same things our son enjoyed, surfing, fishing, camping, etc. We came to realize it was worth losing our son for a year vs losing him forever.
With the help of BILY we found Mary Warren an Independent Educational Consultant who helped us find the right program for our son. We chose Wood Creek Academy, an 18 boy working ranch in Montana. Jimmy was in Montana for 11 months when he graduated the program meeting all of the requirements.
He has been home since February, 2020, he’s happy, makes better choices and is a complete joy to be around. He often speaks on behalf of BILY and WCA about his life before, during and after Woodcreek. He was failing his Freshman year and is now about to graduate high school a year and half early. After experiencing this program with our son, we believe all young adults would benefit from a program such as this. I’m crying as I’m typing this letter because I’m happy and thankful that we made this incredibly difficult decision.
Amy a very proud and happy mom!
The Price of Procrastination: Unveiling the Tragic Consequences of Delaying Help for Struggling Teens
Tragically, when parents procrastinate in enrolling their struggling teenager into a supportive program, like a residential treatment center or a therapeutic boarding school, they usually believe that waiting until after…
–the family vacation
–the next semester
or they decide to give their child ‘just one more chance.’
Regrettably, I can’t tell you how often I hear back from them with horrible news like their child died by suicide, suffered a drug overdose, has gone missing, or ended up entangled in the juvenile legal system.
If you’re a parent dealing with similar circumstances, understand that you’re not alone and there is help.
You don’t need to let another holiday, vacation, or semester pass by while your child struggles. Schedule a consultation to discuss your situation and get advice, resources, parent coaching, and the information you need about residential treatment programs, wilderness therapy, and therapeutic boarding schools designed specifically for teenagers in crisis.
My mission is to help you and your child. I don’t believe in ‘just one more chance’; instead, I advocate for the right chance.
Don’t delay, contact me today. Together, we can embark on a journey toward a happier, healthier future for your child.
Remember, every decision you make for your child stems from love and courage. Trust your instincts, believe in yourself as a parent, and let’s make a difference in your child’s life today.