Military School Alternatives
With the dramatic increase in popularity and the rise in enrollments in military school over the course of the last two decades, it’s pretty safe to assume that our public schools lack both the manpower and proper training to handle all of the problems that are encountered in dealing with today’s youth. Some students are medicated to try and help correct the problem; others experience suspensions or expulsions, or spend much of their high school careers penned up in detention not really getting any help at all. Still others are sent away to be someone else’s problem – to another, even less capable, public school or to an even worse private school. Some think maybe the military could straighten them out.
The most common method of controlling a troubled teen heard in casual conversation, on TV, and in the movies is, “ship him off to military school.” The overuse of this term implies that no matter the particular issue, some stern rules and discipline will somehow iron it all out. While military school may very well be the best option in some cases, different types of teen troubles require different methods of treatment.
Since military school may not be the very best solution for every situation, let’s examine some of the available alternatives that are better suited and more capably staffed to handle some of the problems suffered by today’s teens.
Though some teens will excel under the strict guidelines and stringent rules and regulations of a traditional military school, teens with developmental disabilities and behavioral disorders may become more withdrawn when immersed in the military atmosphere, leading to further academic struggles. Teens with ADD, ADHD, dyslexia or other developmental disorders would most likely derive more benefit from a therapeutic boarding school. These schools have staff members that specialize in teaching teens with learning disabilities and a more structured learning atmosphere that helps maintain focus. The atmosphere in such schools is much more structured and individually focused than that of a public school, but without the harsh edges present within the walls of a military school.
For teens with substance abuse problems or those with severe emotional or behavioral problems, a residential treatment center might prove to be the best option. The residential treatment center will put the teen in an environment where recovery from their addiction and treatment of their disorder is ranked equally, if not even higher, than productivity in the educational part of the program. As the name “treatment center” implies, the participants are put in an atmosphere that is intended to aid in their recovery. Often, in addition to teachers who are trained to perform with positive results in this type of program, residential treatment centers will have therapists and registered nurses on site, as well as other staff members who have gone through training to safely and properly handle all situations that may arise when dealing with addicted or troubled teens.
Parents who are skeptical about how their troubled teen may react when immersed into what can be a very costly year long boarding school program can opt to try a wilderness program first. Many times, counselors or therapists will actually suggest that a parent try their child in a wilderness program before making a final decision on another type of behavioral program or institution so that professionals can gauge the teen’s reactions and progress within the group dynamic and , thus, perhaps be able to better determine what, if any, would be the best course of action to take next. Wilderness programs are much shorter in duration than a school year or even semester long boarding program, often lasting right around thirty days, and though the duration of a wilderness program is approximately the same as that of a military style boot camp, the focus is entirely different. Teens learn to work on activities in a group environment. They better learn the consequences of their actions by having to complete individual tasks in order for the overall group goal to be completed. They also learn to communicate with their peers and how to respond to both positive and negative feedback. Participants also learn how to be more self-sufficient during these retreats.
In military school and boot camp programs, some teens respond to the strict rules and discipline relatively well while they are attending, but as soon as the program is over they revert back to their old habits. It isn’t entirely uncommon for a wilderness camp to spark a true change in some participants who learn to live by the experiences they had with their group, potentially making longer and more expensive programs unnecessary.
A military school can be a fantastic option, in many instances just what the doctor ordered, but just like the ailing public school system, military schools are not necessarily equipped to properly handle every troubled child. Military schools provide structure and discipline, but offer very little in the way of the capability of handling children and teens with addictions or severe emotional problems. It’s important to diagnose your child’s particular problem before making the choice about what course of action would be the best to take. You need to be aware of the warning signs of substance abuse, depression, ADD, and ADHD, and it’s always best to consult professionals before selecting or pursuing these types of treatment programs and specialty schools in order to ensure that your troubled teen doesn’t come out of an expensive program more troubled than when he or she entered it.