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Behavioral Camps for Teens

by Lucie Westminster

If your teenager's behavior limits you from sending him to summer camps like other young adults, there are programs specifically designed to support a child with behavior problems. Your child doesn't have to miss out on these experiences just because she struggles with behavior. If traditional camps aren't the right environment for your camper, consider sending her to a camp for children with behavioral disorders.

Benefits and Options

Sending your teenager to a camp with employees and volunteers specifically trained to work with a child with behavioral concerns benefits her in a number of ways. Not only can you rest easy knowing people who will interact with your child are well trained, she will also learn valuable techniques to improve her behavior and self-control. In addition, being away from you teaches her independence and builds self-confidence that carries over to her life at home, school and job. Depending on the level of discipline you wish to institute, you might consider a less intense option like a wilderness camp that teaches your child life skills in the setting of the outdoors. On the other hand, if you feel a stricter camping environment is more appropriate for your teen, consider a boot camp where rigid behavior modification is the focus.

Selecting a Quality Camp

Proper research ensures you choose the right camp for your teen with a special need. At his age, he is old enough to be involved in both the decision and research into which camp to attend. It is crucial that you select a camp with a high ratio of employees to teens, ideally a 1 to 2 or 1 to 3 ratio, to ensure he receives the attention and supervision he requires. If you select an overnight camp for your child, ensure it has procedures in place for emergencies and has ways of keeping you updated on your child's behavioral progress. Peruse the websites of various behavior camps near you and make a list of possible options. Speak to your child's physician, special education teacher or guidance counselor for additional recommendations. Parents of other teens with behavioral issues are also ideal resources for camps suitable for your child.

Additonal Considerations

All the careful research in the world doesn't factor in your child's individual personality. Sit down with your teen and ask probing questions like "how long can you be away from home?" or "do you think you could spend the night away from your family?". Try to gauge your teen's apprehension about attending camp. It is normal for her, even though a young adult, to feel nervous about being away from home. However, if this fear is great enough, it may hinder her ability to enjoy and benefit from the camping experience. Another consideration may be the overall cost of attending a behavioral camp, although many offer financial aid packages which help defray the cost. Speak with the camp's director regarding options before assuming the financial aspect of behavioral camps is cost prohibitive.

Making Camp a Positive Experience

It's important to prepare your teen for the behavioral camp you two have selected. A sudden and drastic change in environment can be difficult for a child with behavioral issues. Transitional changes like going to or from camp may lead to an increase in behavior problems. With proper planning and preparation, you can reduce the chances your teen will fall victim to this preventable problem. Talk to your child about what to expect in the new setting so that he has clear expectations of what is to come. While he is away attending camp, avoid making major changes in your home like rearranging his room furniture or painting the walls a different color. In addition, always speak positively about the camp and its employees because your views are contagious and will likely rub off on your teen.

About the Author

Based in Texas, Lucie Westminster has been a writer and researcher since 1975. Her work has been published in journals such as "Psychological Reports" and "Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior." Westminster's interests include developmental psychology, children, pets and crafting. She holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Miami University.

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