Do Boot Camps for Youth's Work? Are They The Best Solution? Are There Effective Alternatives?
Unfortunately more often than not parents with teenage children talk about the words "Troubled teen". The teenage years can be the toughest time for both parents and children. These years can be exhausting with facing several challenges mentally, physically and emotionally. As a teenager, you learn so much about life such as learning the skills to become independent, understanding that mistakes do happen and being able to cope with a rollercoaster of emotions.
One of these emotions that you will come across quite often is anger. Even though it may seem that your child is so angry towards you and wants nothing to do with you its quite the opposite. Even at their angriest times, teens crave love and acceptance from their parents. The most important thing you can do is connect with your teen by having face to face conversations and providing them with positivity, love, and encouragement. Before having this conversation you must be aware of your stress levels and to make sure you are in a positive and relaxed state of mind. No matter what your teen discusses with you, you need to be nonjudgmental, patient and understanding of where they are coming from.
What are some behaviours of a troubled teen?Once the teenage years come along so does the importance of wanting to be independent and to have a voice when it comes to opinions and arguments. Once teens discover independence it is then very common for them to want more freedom and to be able to more things and make decisions on their own. Whilst all this is normal behaviour there are warning signs that they might be going through a troubled time.
Some of these signs include:
Please see below some examples of typical teen behaviour and red flag behaviour.
Normal Behavior- Due to hormone and development changes your teen will become moody, irritable and face challenges dealing with their emotions and may express more anger and arguments than usual.
Red Flag Behaviour - Not passing grades, constantly sad, bullying, dramatic changes in personality, anxiety, and depression, having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.
Drugs and Alcohol
Normal Behavior- It is very common for teens to try cigarettes and alcohol at some stage. You will most likely find that they will also try marijuana. It is important that once they reach the teenage years that you talk openly and honestly about drugs and alcohol so they understand all the factors, risks and dangers.
Red Flag Behavior- When the use of alcohol or drugs becomes a habit and common behaviour that they believe is acceptable. When this becomes a habit you will find it will also cause problems at school and home. This could be a sign of addiction or substance abuse.
If your child is going through any of the above you must seek the help needed. There is never going to be the one solution, every child is different and you must seek the correct help for the individual child. There is a range of services available including councilling, therapy, boot camps, and other mental health support programs.
One of the options mentioned above is choosing to put your teen through a youth program called a "Boot Camp". These camps claim to provide a range of benefits such as building confidence, expressing emotions and learning how to let go of bullying and family resentment. Whilst these camps might be beneficial for some children, over the years we have found more often than not these Boot Camps cause more harm than good. These types of camps are extremely harsh and focus on negative reinforcement which has proven to work quite the opposite especially with teens who are already struggling with self-esteem issues.
Many experts have named these boot camps as dangerous with over 8% of teens relapsing once the camp has finished.
The problem with these military-style camps is that their main objective is to teach the child punishment instead of discipline. The children are often screamed and yelled at when given a task and scare tactics are used to get the child to do what is asked. The issue with this type of direction does not only do it affect their self-esteem but because this doesn't happen in the outside world the child isn't motivated to behave and will resort back to troubling behaviour. Children who are enrolled in this type of camp often lack the skills of making the right decisions for themselves. They need to be taught how to set goals, solve problems, make the correct choice, and learn social skills. Unfortunately, most of these camps do not teach the above and they don't reinforce the importance of finding hobbies and interests which will keep them out of trouble.
Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to separate the good Boot Camps from the bad. Unless you know someone who has enrolled their child in a particular camp, it is very hard to know what it will be like. If a military-style camp is still your preferred choice a word of advice is to not just go off what you see on a website. Boot camp websites can make wonderful promises claiming to achieve miraculous things for your teen. Make sure you read reviews and connect with references and referrals for your peace of mind.
Is choosing a youth program beneficial for your teen?
One of the more popular and less harsh approaches to helping your child is enrolling them in what is called a Troubled Teen Program. Here at My Healthy Mind as well as providing professional councilling for your teen we also have a program which is called The Youth Identity program. This program is a 5 day camp for children from ages 5 to 16.
What will my child learn at the Youth Identity Program?
Our Youth Identity Program teaches many key learning outcomes such as Accountability- we teach the children the importance of taking accountability and ownership of their actions no matter what has occurred. They will learn that taking accountability builds trust and will also be taught leadership skills which will guide them throughout their life. Self Control- teaching your child how to regulate and understand emotions will not only help them throughout this program but will also help them to have the ability to reach their life goals. We teach them how to deal with situations where emotions such as anger and conflict may arise. Respect- One of the most important things we teach the children in our program is that no matter who we are we are all equal. We teach the importance of having your own identity and help them understand that everyone in society is to be respected. Gratitude- Teaching the children to be thankful for all areas of their life no matter how big or small. Explaining the importance of appreciating everything that comes with the good and the bad
Other areas we focus on include role-playing which builds confidence and trust, teaching the benefits of resilience and also the many benefits of understanding and accepting their own identity. Yoga and meditation are also something we discuss during the program. Helping the children understand that these sorts of practices are not just for physical benefits, they provide so many mental health benefits as well. These include helping with the management of stress and anxiety, helps lengthen attention span, enhances self-awareness and promotes emotional health. During the 5 day camp, we also have many discussions about nutrition, what are good foods and why it is so important to fuel our bodies with healthy foods. Hygiene is also another important topic we discuss, helping the children learn and understand how to take care of themselves.
Are there activities involved in this 5-day camp?
Here at My Healthy Mind, we have made sure that our camp is not just about classroom learning, we want to ensure that the children thoroughly enjoy themselves and can leave knowing that as well as being educated they also had fun and enjoyed themselves.
We have incorporated activities throughout the camp including bushwalks, Karate, Zorb balls and going to Bounce the indoor trampoline centre.
As well as these activities were fun they also teach trust, respect, and teamwork. We understand that choosing the correct camp or program for your troubled teen can be a daunting task. If our 5-day camp sounds like it can benefit your child please feel free to contact us for any questions, enquiries or concerns you may have and we will be more than happy to discuss and answer all of your questions.