The idea of sending a child away to boarding school or a residential or wilderness therapy program (like that of the ABC series Brat Camp) can seem like a god-send when it first comes up. But for many parents, the optimism and hope that accompany the prospect of finally getting a child the help he or she needs often gives way to overwhelming feelings of guilt and even inadequacy. Friends, even family members, may be questioning the motives behind sending a child away, and the child in question may be expressing reluctance or even outright resentment at being enrolled in such a program.
In turn, parents often find themselves bombarded by second thoughts about their decision. After all, wouldn’t a “good” or “capable” parent be able to handle their child’s crisis alone? And surely it’s cruel to make a child do something he or she doesn’t want to do – especially when they’re already dealing with substance misuse or emotional, behavioral or academic problems?
The answer to all these questions is no. Even the best, most capable parents do not necessarily have the skills to help a child in crisis, and sometimes sending a child away for help is the single most loving thing a parent can do. And while it can be very hard not to let personal concerns interfere with what’s best for your child, you’ve got to do it: if your child is in crisis, his or her recovery needs to be top priority.
So how do you silence the “what if’s” and “should have’s” in favor of taking positive control over the health, wellbeing and development of your child? First of all, remember that you are the parent. Sure, everyone is going to have an opinion about sending your child away, but you know your child best – and you’ve probably put a lot of time, energy and emotion into deciding that a residential program is the very best alternative for your child – and you need to stay true to that decision.
Second, remind yourself of the reasons you chose a wilderness therapy or residential program for your child. Look at the program’s success rates, resources and benefits – like round-the-clock support from caring, qualified counselors and staff, a positive and encouraging environment, the chance for your child to enjoy a fresh start free from the “labels” he or she may have been assigned in the past. Read the success stories of graduates from similar programs. Imagine how much healthier and happier your child will be when they successfully overcome their present crisis.
Most of all, however, simply remember that the decision you made to send your child away for support has nothing to do with your parenting skills or your worth as a parent – and it is certainly nothing to feel guilty about. In fact, it’s a decision to be proud of. Parents who send their child away for help do so because they understand just how much positive change residential programs can inspire in a child’s life – and just how much of a gift that can be.