While teen boot camps, military schools, wilderness programs and boarding schools provide intensive, off-site support and direction for troubled teens, parents may prefer an in-school program as an initial measure. Before you get your heart set on a specific intervention, check your school district’s offerings, as programs vary according to local resources. Public schools often have a wider range of services than private and charter schools, due to legal requirements and federal funding.
Techniques of Teen Support Programs
Most types of programs for at-risk youth center around behavior modification. In this approach, the people in the teenager’s life develop behavioral goals and a system of rewards for meeting those goals and consequences for not meeting them. Other programs include anger management and cognitive therapy.
Counseling Makes a DIfference
Counseling is the go-to measure for supporting troubled teens. A school may have a full-time counselor equipped to deal with emotional and behavioral issues or it may share a counselor with other schools within the district. Counselors typically meet with teenagers experiencing problems individually or in small groups, focusing on negative behaviors, triggers, problem-solving and developing social skills.
School programs for troubled teens cannot address every problem for every individual. However, coupled with support from parents, educators or social agencies, these programs can help your teenager get through challenges like suicidal thoughts, disturbances in home life, social stresses, academic pressures, eating disorders, depression, sexual promiscuity, risky behavior and defiance.
Working the School System
In some cases, parents can navigate a school’s special education system to address issues for teens at risk. Meet with your teenager’s teachers to discuss the possibility of scheduling a conference with the special education teacher and any support staff that may be able to help you. Bring medical and academic records in case the school staff wants to create an individualized education plan, or IEP. The IEP may highlight school services, such as pullout academic or therapeutic support, in-class support or on-site extracurricular activities. In addition, the school counselor may have recommendations for outside resources, like private family therapists, medical specialists or substance abuse treatment counselors.
Troubled teens may experience success with in-school programs, but expect a rocky road. Set your sights on long-term solutions, but also stay open to the idea that you may have to try several approaches before finding a way to reach a troubled adolescent. However, if your teen exhibits behavior that puts his health and safety at risk, you should ask school staff for recommendations beyond the school setting.