After the Troubled Teen Program: Now What?

Your teen is coming home after completing a teen wilderness program or a troubled teen residential program. There are feelings of relief and joy (“My child is coming home at last!”). However, these are mixed with feelings of trepidation and anxiety (“Will he go back to his old ways? How long will the improvement last?”).

The fear that your child’s return home will also signal his return to old attitudes, habits and addictions is understandable. There is a risk that your child will once again hang out with old peers and start making bad choices again. There is also the apprehension that the monster of past tensions and conflicts that marked the parent-child relationship will once again rear its ugly head.

The key to a successful transition from the troubled teen program to the home and on to the teen’s successful adult life lies with the parents. Are you prepared to welcome your child home and ensure that you both grow from your experiences?

Here are some tips to help you prepare:

– Make early plans. Start with your choice of troubled teen program. When considering a program, always ask what the organization has for the parents. This way, the training and therapy will be reinforced by the parents. The organization should have a training program for parents so that the transition from the troubled teen program to the home will be smooth. The program should also ideally incorporate parent visits and the teen’s home visits within the duration of the program as part of the preparation for both parents and child.
– Create a home plan. Set down the ground rules after your child’s return. This includes discussing and agreeing on house rules, privileges and responsibilities, as well as consequences. Your child will most likely encounter a similar plan during his stay with the troubled teen program. You are simply tailor-fitting the ground rules in the troubled teen program and putting it into the home setting. Having clear rules minimizes misunderstandings and power plays.

The home plan should cover a number of areas, including his performance at school, curfews, expected behaviors, going out on dates or with friends, his appearance and how he handles money. The home plan should also include the list of the child’s house chores, as well as the time allotment for watching the TV, using the computer, surfing the internet or playing video games.

– Provide structure to your child’s day. Work with your child to create a schedule that will keep your child pleasantly occupied, rather than bored. These should be mainly activities that build your child’s confidence and things that he enjoys. This way, you minimize the free time he has to get into trouble.
– Consider continuing with therapy. This time, the therapy sessions should also include the parents. A huge factor in the success of the teen’s homecoming is the stability of the home. Therapy can help to equip the parents and the child with the tools for them to work together to create a stable home environment that will foster the continued growth of the child.
– Make use of available community resources. Does your community have a youth-oriented program (i.e. a music program, sports club or civic-oriented group) which can provide additional support? This will help the child develop healthy relationships outside of the family, and also have positive role models.

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