7 Tips For Choosing The Right Boot Camp For Teens

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During teenage years, children expect more freedom, and most parents do not mind giving them space. But sometimes, this freedom can go out of bounds, and teenagers might need help. Boot camps for teens may help in such cases. In most cases, at-risk youth are sent to private teen boot camps to remedy an undesirable behavior. Whether it is substance abuse, anger, authority defiance, academic underachievement, or rule-breaking, there is likely a deeper, underlying emotional issue that needs to be addressed.

When parents have exhausted their resources and don’t know where to turn, treatment methods such as a boot camp for teens may help their struggling child.

Do Teen Boot Camps Work?

While teen boot camps effectively build strength and discipline, they typically do not have a therapeutic model to address the underlying issues behind teen defiance and rebellion. The goal of these programs for troubled teens is centered on training teens to take ownership of their choices. However, they don’t punish teens, a style of discipline that was so prevalent in the past. Instead, the teen is encouraged to make positive choices through constructive skill-building.

The teen boot camps blend the characteristics of boarding schools and wilderness programs. Worn-out and stressed-out parents who are at their wit’s end may resort to these programs to help their children. They teach teens to acquire healthy lifestyle habits.

Types Of Boot Camps For Teens

Various boot camps for teens are available to cater to your child’s specific needs (1)

  • Boot camps for the mind

These boot camps help children to succeed academically further. Also, they help improve their ability to focus better on their goals.

  • Boot camps for the soul

These boot camps aiming at the soul are religious boot camps. They provide teenagers with the opportunity to improve their spiritual lives through meditation and prayers.

  • Boot camps for body

Boot camps can be beneficial for teens when it comes to physical fitness. Drills, adventurous treks, and physical fitness activities are an integral part of boot camps that make teens fit and confident.

  • Military-style boot camps

Military-style boot camps help troubled children get back on track. Children who end up in trouble cannot make healthy decisions during this phase. They need to learn how to set goals, resist peer pressure, and solve problems. They also need to learn social skills and involve in hobbies and interests to keep them out of trouble. Military camps also improve their fitness levels.

When Should Parents Not Send A Child To Boot Camp?

Teens who display behavioral problems may have mental health issues, such as a conduct disorder, ADHD, or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Maybe the parents had ignored the warning signs, and the disorder has gotten worse in the teen years. Other teens may have functioned normally during early childhood, only to develop problems later. However, all teens with behavioral issues such as rebellion may not have a serious mental health issue. If the behavioral issue is a mental health problem, it’s best to avoid sending them to an unfamiliar environment.

These behavioral issues might develop from social issues, bullying, substance abuse, hormone changes, or mood disorders such as depression. Some risk factors attributed to the problems might include trauma, physical or sexual abuse, neglected genes, family history of mood disorders, or mental instability. Also, personality traits, temperaments, lack of impulse control, poor stress management, learning disabilities, and environmental factors may play a role.

There might be various triggers, including parents getting divorced, the sudden death of a parent or loved one, or moving to a new town. Mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder, are more likely to emerge in such situations.

Teens struggling with the following mental health issues shouldn’t be pushed to join a boot camp:

  1. Conduct Disorder Teens with conduct disorder will display defiant, hostile, aggressive, and disruptive behaviors. They tend to look for fights and have no regard for social norms. This disorder is more common in males.
  1. Oppositional Defiant Disorder – ODD is a behavior disorder where teens display angry and hostile behaviors. They have difficulty accepting authority, and they also get frustrated easily. ADHD is a common co-morbid disorder.
  1. Substance Abuse –Teens who become involved in substance abuse are at risk of developing a disorder. Many drugs, such as oxy and Vicodin, are highly addictive and can lead to harder drugs.

Tips For Choosing The Right Boot Camp

Here are some key factors to consider when choosing the right boot camp for your teen.

  1. Formal evaluation: A credible therapy program should evaluate its clients upon admission. Routine formal evaluations of the effectiveness of the treatment path should be conducted periodically to make sure the treatment is successful.
  1. Adequate expert supervision and evaluation: With the help of guided supervision of a licensed mental health practitioner or clinical social work therapy program, the participants should have individual or group therapy sessions to ensure the right treatment is given to the concerned child.
  1. Family involvement for growth: The healing process with the help and involvement of family members is vital to healing. With both teens and parents on the same path, the entire family begins to heal. This type of program should work with the family to help them understand each participant’s issues, goals, treatment path, and the problems the child is going through.
  1. Specialized training in medical ventures: The therapy field guides get trained in CPR, first aid, and receive first responder certification. This training will help prepare the children to face the world with extra exposure in helping others. This will ensure the children better understand the world around them and develop empathy.
  1. Individualized treatment plans: At a reputable wilderness therapy program, all clients should receive an individualized treatment plan based on their personal needs, goals, and issues. The individualized plans should be carefully monitored by a licensed mental health professional to help solve the impending problems.
  1. Aftercare, transitional support to children: Progress doesn’t stop the day a client leaves treatment. As such, therapeutic staff members should ensure the teen has a smooth transition back into the real world. Moreover, the family and the client should receive adequate aftercare services to ensure the progress made during treatment lasts.
  1. Medical care: A credible wilderness therapy program conducts a medical examination upon admission and routine medical check-ups to monitor participants’ well-being.

Focus on looking for programs that emphasize education and life skill rather than harsh punishments. Some programs even take place in the wilderness rather than confined settings to help the teens feel comfortable.

As a parent, check on your teen’s mental health before pushing them into a rigorous boot camp where they might get worse. Look into the different boot camps available and choose a suitable one for your teenager. As teenagers, we were all rebellious once in our ways. Hence, punishing a teen is not recommended; instead, join them in the right discipline-based program.


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  1. Types of Boot Camps for Teens; Teen Boot Camps
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Manjari Srivastava

Manjari Srivastava is a graduate of psychology. She also holds certificates in Basics In Clinical Psychology and Identifying Early Signs Of Psychosis In Adolescents And Young Adults.  Previously, she volunteered with an NGO specializing in positive psychology, where she took up individual counseling sessions for students. She also taught English to underprivileged children and helped them with their studies. At MomJunction,... more