It’s a simple situation. Your teen is in trouble so you look for a way or ways to help them. You find a way in the form of a wilderness camp. Your teen attends the camp and comes home a changed for the better person. End of story. But sadly that last point is not always true. That’s because when the formerly troubled teen returns home, the task of helping has only just begun. You see the follow-up to their stay in camp is as vital and as significant as the time actually spent in the wilderness.
How long should your teen spend in a wilderness camp? Should it be thirty days, sixty days or longer? The answer varies with every teen. Some have really serious problems. Some have plenty of resistance to change. It is generally better to stay longer than necessary because sending a teen home with some of their troubles is likely to backfire. In fact the saying goes that if a teen needs to spend more time in a wilderness camp then make sure he or she does spend more time.
You need to remember why the teen went to the wilderness camp in the first place. What was the problem or problems they faced? Knowing that answer means you must change the situation which caused or fostered those problems in the first place. It is a tragic waste of time, effort and money if a changed teen comes home and falls back into their old ways. Parents should change the environment. Get ride of the temptations which brought about your child’s problems in the first place.
All this assumes the camp officials and the parents are in communication and detailed communication at that. They must all be singing from the same hymn sheet. The parents have already told the staff all about the problems facing the child. The staff from the wilderness camp tells the parents all about the progress of the teen. With sensible planning and detailed discussions, the parents and the therapists map out a plan for the life of the teen once they return from camp.
One of the most important points about the return to the family home is the attitude of the parents as a team. Both may want the best for their child but if the parents are at loggerheads over how their teen is to be treated, problems may well arise. The parents must agree on a policy and stick to it. The ‘new’ teen wants harmony at home and only a team effort will help them go on from the changed attitude they developed in the wilderness camp.
One question is regarding the teen’s education. Will they return to their former school? Was this where they met other teens who helped take your child into bad territory? It might mean a new school. And if you have another child or children at home, how are they going to react to their ‘new’ sibling? It takes a whole team effort to help nurture a teen who has returned from camp. They need love and total support and if that is forthcoming, the troubled teen may well be troubled no longer.