A Winter to Remember: Spending the Holidays at Wilderness Camp

"(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays" and "I’ll Be Home for Christmas" are two favorite holiday songs that can be heard in every shopping mall and on every radio station at this time of year.

Holidays at Wilderness Camps

But sometimes being home for the holidays isn’t so happy. If you’re the parent of a troubled teen or young adult, you know this firsthand. Despite your best efforts, your child is out of control, experimenting with drugs and alcohol, breaking all of the rules, and using winter break as another opportunity to make the rest of the family miserable.

In these situations, spending the holidays at a wilderness therapy program can be the best solution for both young people and their family.

A Memorable and Meaningful Holiday in the Wilderness

The holidays are a time when people naturally think about family and home. This makes spending a winter away from home particularly meaningful. The therapists and field instructors at Aspen Achievement Academy, a wilderness therapy program for teens draw upon the heightened emotions young people feel at this time of year to make the wilderness experience even more effective.

"The winter is one of the most effective times for struggling youth to participate in a wilderness therapy program," said Gil Hallows, MS, executive director of Aspen Achievement Academy. "It is so impactful to be away from home, especially during a major holiday like Christmas or Hanukkah. Our students gain a real appreciation for the things they’ve always taken for granted – their traditions, their loved ones and the comforts of home."

A Profound Sense of Gratitude

Many field instructors volunteer to work on the holidays and be with the students rather than their families because it is so rewarding to see the profound transformation that happens over the holidays.

Celebrating the holidays with their "Aspen family" in the desert, the staff and other students grow closer through their shared experience, which creates a spirit of harmony and good will. This positive peer culture helps young people open up and learn from each other’s experiences.

Read more about spending the holidays at a therapeutic wilderness camp >>

Signs Your Teenager May Be Using Drugs

As children get older, parents may become concerned that their kids are using drugs. This worry becomes especially pronounced once kids have entered high school, and in many cases it continues through college.

Regardless of whether kids are from wealthy or poor families, or live in cities or rural communities, drug use continues to be on the rise among almost all age groups. By the time children graduate from high school, at least 50 percent of them will have at least tried some type of drug.

So how are parents supposed to know whether their teenagers are addicted to drugs?

Learn the Risk Factors

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are more than 50 factors that have been identified that might put someone at risk for drug use. The risk factors have to do with peer groups, family, community issues and, of course, the individual.

What are the warning signs? Continue reading >>

Getting Your Teen Involved in Volunteering Boosts Confidence, Improves Grades

Teenagers and too much free time can be a deadly combination. When teens find themselves with large chunks of free time, they are prone to sitting on the couch playing video games or watching TV, or trying to liven things up by experimenting with drugs or alcohol.

Instead of trying to fill up these hours with more schoolwork, yet another extracurricular activity or forced quality time with their family, encourage your teenagers to get involved with volunteer work. Giving back to their community can work wonders for your teenager’s self-esteem, improve their grades and give them something to look forward to instead of spending yet another weekend mindlessly staring at a screen.

Volunteering has been shown to have many positive effects on high school students. Teens who volunteer as few as two hours each week experience higher self-esteem and greater resiliency, and are 50 percent less likely to use drugs, alcohol or cigarettes, according to an article by Ann Pleshette Murphy on ABCNews.com.

Learn ways to get your teen involved >>