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Choosing the Right Boot Camp for your Troubled Teen

For many parents, the idea of sending their troubled teenager to a juvenile boot camp is strange and frightening. That is why it pays to do some research and get a better understanding of what goes on at a boot camp for teens before you put your child in such an institution for anywhere for a couple weeks to a couple months.

The term “boot camp” is intimidating because it evokes an image of a military environment that is tough and unforgiving. That image is accurate in that juvenile boot camps use a rigorous schedule to take the youth out of their comfort zones and in doing so, open troubled youth up to counseling and new experiences that will change them for the better.

The first misconception to get over when parents begin to consider if a teen boot camp is the right next step to turn a troubled teenager around is that juvenile boot camps are all the same. The variety of boot camps is almost as diverse as the types of kids that might need this kind of experience. So it is a good idea to take some time to do some research into what would be the best teen boot camp experience for your child.

This decision is much more complicated than finding a juvenile boot camp that would be “fun” for your teenager.  In truth, boot camps for kids are not designed to be fun at all. Now, the experience that your teenager will have at boot camp may be the biggest adventure of their lives. And once they learn to conquer the tremendous physical and emotional challenges that are put before them, they will begin to celebrate their new abilities and self confidence. That will give them a joy and a sense of fun that is much more significant than any camp they have attended before.

Credentials Count

You would never expect someone to set up a boot camp for teenagers as a scam. But there are boot camp operations that are not run as well as others. A boot camp experience is an intense time for a teenager to be away from home. And even if your youngster puts on a veneer of being tough and removed, if he or she has never been away from home, this can be a traumatic experience.

Boot camps for teenagers are also involve lengthy stays of anywhere from four to six weeks to six months. They are designed to be long to give the boot camp experience the chance to reorient the youth in their care and to build new habits and attitudes that will sustain the young people long after they leave the camp.

Before you put your child in the hands of a juvenile boot camp institution, it is only right for you to do some background checking to be sure they are trustworthy and capable at taking care of kids and accomplishing the goals stated in their brochures or on their web page. You should perform the basic steps you would go through to validate the worthiness of any enterprise that you will depend on. That includes doing background checks on the organization, their sponsors and reading their statements of purpose to understand in detail what they are all about. That step alone could send up a red flag that there may be something about that particular teen boot camp that is not right for your child.

The best kind of boot camp for teenagers that will inspire your trust is one that has been in operation for many years with a clean record that is free of complaints or accidents. Of course, any program that puts so many young people under so much stress in camp situation will have some mishaps. But if the boot camp has very few issues involving negative interactions with instructors or drill trainers and they have a high rate of graduation success, which tells you a lot about the program and the wisdom and skills of the administration. That is a boot camp worth considering for your troubled teenager.

A Good Fit

Once you narrow down the teen boot camps that you feel you can trust, the next step is to find a program that will be a good fit for your son or daughter. Different juvenile boot camps put more emphasis on different methods of training and means for turning a kid’s life around. If your family is religious, a Christian boot camp would be a good choice because they would combine spiritual training and values with the physical, emotional and mental disciplines that are being developed.

Part of sorting out what program is best for your troubled teen is to know more about the root causes of his or her alienation from authority or even from you as his or her parents. If the teenager is going through depression or battling substance abuse, a teen boot camp that is structured around counseling and drug rehabilitation is the right choice. If the boot camp strictly deals with putting a child through a rigorous physical discipline and “breaking the will”, that may not be the right situation for a sensitive youngster who is already dealing with serious self esteem issues.

Every young person is different and since there are such a huge variety of juvenile boot camps available these days, you can find one that fits your teenager’s interests and temperament. If your child is advanced intellectually and that is part of his or her rebellion, you can find teen boot camps that put more emphasis on spending time in dialog, debate and learning situations.

If your child responds well to nature and animals, you can find camps that provide chances to be outside, ride horses and interact with the natural world. Boot camp administrators understand that there are different “triggers” to get inside the head of a kid so different kinds of boot camps are out there to fit different needs and types of the teenagers they are there to help. You just have to be persistent in finding the perfect choice for your teenager.

Here are additional resources you might be interested in:

Are Teen Boot Camps Effective?

What to Expect in Teen Boot Camps

Can a Boot Camp for Teenagers Fix Your Troubled Child?

Do you believe your child needs help, does he or she need "a lesson" or "to get some discipline"?
Boot Camps for Troubled Teens Are Not the Answer.
We DO NOT endorse teen boot camps because they were proven ineffective and dangerous. Learn More!

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We understand this is a difficult time for you.   Sadly we do not know of any free programs.  

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