Emotional Problems

Self Esteem

One of the issues that can affect teenagers is that of self esteem. Self esteem refers to how one feels about him or herself. Also, it refers to how you think others feel about you. Do you think they like you? Or do you feel like no one values you? There are different factors that go into self esteem, and for teenagers these factors often make a bigger difference. Low teen self esteem can lead to sexual activity (sometimes resulting in teen pregnancy), depression and even suicide. It is important to recognize that teenagers need to feel valued and loved.

Why teen self esteem is important

It may seem unimportant to worry about teen self esteem, but in reality, it can set the stage for one’s entire life. According to a questionnaire given to 90,000 students in grades 7-12, self esteem helps teens deal with emotional stress. Additionally, having good self esteem correlates with success later in life – mainly because good grades and confidence can allow a teen to start out with scholarships and other opportunities.

Self esteem is also important when it comes to making good choices. Teen pregnancy statistics show time and time again that girls who engage in unprotected sex often have lower self esteem than their counterparts. Other decisions, such as those regarding risky behavior and use of illegal drugs, can result from low teen self esteem.

Finally poor teen self esteem can lead to emotional and mental issues. Depression can stem from feeling as though you are not good enough. In some cases, teenagers who cannot overcome their feelings of hopelessness and low self esteem resort to suicide.

What causes low self esteem?

There are many factors that can contribute to a teen having low self esteem. Here are some of the factors that may contribute to teen self esteem problems:

  • Appearance (self image). It may seem shallow, but most teenagers are concerned to some degree about their appearance. This can be difficult to overcome, because in some cases it can be difficult to change one’s appearance. Overweight teens often feel bad about themselves, as do teens that think that there is some sort of irregularity with the way they look.
  • Peers. Teenagers may have peers that make fun of them or put them down. If a teen feels like an outcast, it can have an effect on his or her self esteem.
  • Parents. Sometimes parents or other authority figures put teens down and cause self esteem problems. Parents, coaches and teachers who always criticize can make a teenager feel as though he or she never does anything right, and is never valued. Such constant criticism may cause him or her to feel unloved.
  • Unrealistic expectations. We all want to live up to our potential. But sometimes teenagers feel pressures from unrealistic expectations. Parents and teachers may expect too much of them. Often, a teen can develop low self esteem because he or she is not “living up” to the expectations that one sets for oneself. A teenager can, at some times, be his or her own hardest critic. 

Helping your teen overcome low self esteem

You want to help your teenager overcome low self esteem. This means that you may need to make changes yourself. Look at your behavior, and determine if there is something you can do differently. Teens need to be corrected, but are you always criticizing? Try to say at least one positive thing for each negative thing you say.

If there is an appearance issue, encourage your teenager, if reasonable. If your teen is overweight, this can be done by exercising with him or her and encouraging him or her to lose weight for health reasons. Do not point to the appearance issue in such cases. Instead, focus on the health aspects of the change. If the appearance issue is something that can’t be changed, help your teen gain an acceptance for it. This may require counseling, especially if the issue is of a recent development, as from an accident.

You can also talk to your teenager about failure. Make sure that you don’t express excessive disappointment when your teen does not perform to your expectations. Instead, praise the effort and encourage him or her to work harder next time. Explain that mistakes should be viewed as chances to learn and grow, rather than a measure of one’s worth.

There is a fine line between giving your teen a false sense of complacency and feelings of entitlement and self esteem. But if you are careful, you should be able to help your teenager develop a healthy attitude toward him or herself.

Parenting Articles

Driving Contracts

What are Teen Driving Contracts?

These are agreements used by parents of teen drivers that clearly define rules and consequences. The rules can range from a curfew time, drug/alcohol use while driving, and/or driving behaviors/habits.

Why do Teen Drivers Need Contracts?

Teenagers sometimes make very poor choices without thinking about the consequences. In the case of making a poor choice while driving can result in bodily injury, property damage, and obviously – death. Teen Driving Contracts define these consequences and brings them to the front of the teen’s mind.

Benefits of a driving contract:
1. Better driving habits
2. Reduced risk of accident
3. Less argument when enforcing consequences

Creating a Driving Contract

There are many different methods for making driving contracts. It will take a few hours of well thought out ideas. You will need to make a list of the rules to be made and then a list of consequences if a rule is broken. Always be sure to make rules that you are willing to enforce. If you say you will take the keys away – be prepared to act. If you don’t enforce the agreement – the teen will be less likely to live up to it. After writing out the teen driving contract and discussing them with your teen you should both sign them. Make a copy for your teen so they can have to review later or you can even make a short list of the rules and post them in the car.

Buying a Teen Driving Contract

If you don’t have the time or ideas it takes to create a driving contract there are many services and products available on the internet for under $20. We recommend – they offer many behavior contracts with a teen driver contract bundled in the package. The contract may be used together or separately from the other agreements.

In our opinion, all teen drivers should be required to sign a driving contract. Rules and consequences must be discussed before the teenager ever starts to drive.

Military Schools

Military Schools

What are Military Schools?

Military schools are very structured schools. Typically they have a regular school year with summer vacation. Students or Cadets can be boarded or some military schools offer a Day Student discount for those that just attend the school during the day. There are many single sex military schools for boys and there are just a few military schools for girls.

Who are appropriate candidates for Military Schools?

Military schools are good for those students who do not have any major behavioral issues, but just require more structure in their lives. Military schools usually have entrance exams where students must pass with an average to above average academic background.

Who are not appropriate candidates for Military Schools?

Military schools typically have a low tolerance for students with behavioral issues such as: disrespect for people in authority, low school attendance, poor grades, etc. They do not work for students who have emotional or behavioral problems including, ADD/ADHD, clinical depression, and ODD.

Why aren’t Military Schools appropriate for behavior modification?

Military schools do not provide an in-school treatment program as a general rule. These services might be contracted through a private practice while your teen is at a military school, but the schools aren’t equipped for teens with emotional or behavior problems. Military schools don’t have a solid follow-up program and support system needed for troubled teens and their parents. Programs of a confrontational nature have been proven to create more problems for troubled teens.

How much does it cost to attend a Military School?

Most military school cost about $3,000 to $5,000 per month for a nine-month period. Most require the entire nine-month tuition up-front. Some will break the full tuition up into 2-4 payments. Uniforms and other costs are an additional cost of about $1,000 to $4,000 that is required to be paid up-front with the tuition.

Boot Camps

Boot Camps

What are Teen Boot Camps?

There are several kinds of boot camps out there. There are boot camps for learning, for example, the Disney Boot Camp or the Astronaut Boot Camp. There are adult boot camps for losing weight. We are going to discuss the troubled teen boot camps. These juvenile boot camps usually have a military type structure with a lot of screaming from big men with of marching and exercising. This appeals to a lot of parents with troubled teens because they have done a lot of screaming at their teen and it doesn’t seem to work, so they think that someone bigger and meaner looking will force their teen to straighten up.

Who are appropriate teens for Boot Camps?

Boot Camps for teens are short term, typically 30 days. Teens who are looking to get a good exercise program going during the summer may benefit from a boot camp. Teens who do not have any emotional or behavioral problems, but are just sluffing off a little in school and just need a little wake up call, may benefit from a juvenile boot camp.

Who are not appropriate teens for Juvenile Boot Camps?

Since the juvenile boot camps are usually a hostile environment, a teen who is hostile will only learn that that the louder you scream, the more action you will get. Boot Camps are not designed to deal with the emotional side of teens and their behavior problems.

Why are Boot Camps not appropriate for Behavior Modification?

Teen Boot Camps are short term and do not provide treatment. Because they are short term and because of the environment, you may not even be able to contract with outside private services to work with your teen with emotional and behavioral problems. Thirty days is not long enough to make lasting changes. Boot Camps do not have long-term follow up nor support that is needed for troubled teens and parents.

How much do Teen Boot Camps cost?

Boot Camps for teens tend to charge more then a typical Behavior Modification School because they are only 30 days so they feel that parents are willing to pay more for one month then they are for several months over a year. Boot Camps cost between $5,000 and $10,000 for the 30 day stay.

Private Schools

Private Schools

What are Private Schools?

Private Schools (Independent Schools) are schools that are not run by or funded by federal, state, or local governments. Most private schools are “day” school (see Boarding Schools for residential private schools). They are typically divided into to “types” of schools such as – religious or sectarian, military, performing arts, trade or vocational and more. Private schools are K-12 but some offer higher education classes.

Which teens are appropriate for Private Schools?

Teens who desire to study a particular field or faith that is not offered in a public school setting would be appropriate for a private school. Teens who work better in a smaller classroom with more one-on-one attention tend to work better in a private school setting.

Which teens are NOT appropriate for Private Schools?

Private schools do not tolerate disrespectful, out of control teens. Teens that have emotional and/or behavioral problems or a past of emotional and/or behavioral problems do not get accepted into most private schools or if the behavior becomes evident after a teen is enrolled, the teen is usually expelled.

Why are Private Schools not appropriate for Behavior Modification?

Private schools do not offer therapy or treatment for troubled teen behavior. A troubled teen exhibiting emotional and/or behavioral problems needs to receive treatment. Private schools are not equipped to handle teens who have addiction issues, emotional and/or behavioral problems, and disrespectful attitudes. And in some cases, private schools can help to promote the undesired behavior by being in a more influential setting.

How much does a Private School cost?

Private School tuition ranges from $20,000 to $40,000 for the 9 month school year. Some private schools offer scholarships or work programs that will reduce or completely pay the tuition.

Boot Camps

Teen Summer Camps

What are Teen Summer Camps?

Teen Summer Camps are typically very short term programs where teens go to do fun arts and crafts, sing campfire songs, and  sleep in tents or cabins in the wilderness. There are three major categories of camps. Day Camps – where a teen would go for the day do arts and craft or sports and go home at the end of the day. Residential Camps – where a teen boards at the camp and usually sleeps in tents or cabins. Travel programs – where a teen will travel to different locations.

Not all teen summer camps are “camping” or in the wilderness, however. There are many other types of camps that teens are involved in during the summer. Some are sports related like a football, cheerleading, basketball, or volleyball, among others. But there are also academic camps for those with a particular interest in a specific area like: science, robotics, leadership, art, math, business, or other academic areas. There are other types of special interest camps like community service groups, military kids groups, weight loss camps, or adventure camps. And even travel groups that spend a few days, sometimes a week or move, traveling to specific historical or special interest sites. As you can see, the possibilities are endless for teen summer camps.

Which teens are appropriate for Summer Camps?

Teen summer camps are appropriate for teens (boy or girl) who want to spend a week or two doing fun arts and crafts, learn new sports such as how to ride a horse, or spend time with others their age learning more about a particular topic that interests them. The teen will need to be mature enough to listen to, follow directions of, and show respect for those in charge for the camp. The teen needs to be mature and respectful to other people and their property and must be okay with spending time away from their regular environment and people they are used to associating with. Even though some camps may include siblings or friends, they will likely have times that they are not all together. Most teen summer camp programs will have specific criteria that each individual must meet to be considered for the program.

Which teens are NOT appropriate for Teen Summer Camps?

Teen summer camps and summer programs typically last only a week or two. Although they may remove a teen who is struggling with emotional and behavioral problems from his or her environment, a week or two is not long enough to make lasting changes that will continue once the teen returns to his regular environment. Teen summer camps are not for troubled teens or teens looking for recovery from an addiction, unless that is specifically what the camp is for, but those are generally more of a treatment center than a camp. Teen summer camps typically do not offer any therapy or treatment for teens who are struggling with drug and/or alcohol abuse. Teens who “act out” or misbehave are typically sent home immediately. Teens that will not follow rules and continually defy authority will not do well at a teen summer camp.

Why are Teen Summer Camps not appropriate for Behavior Modification?

Teen Summer Camps for boys and girls do not last long enough to make any long lasting changes in a teen who is struggling with emotional and behavioral problems. Summer camps usually will not tolerate any teen that is out of control, caught smoking, having inappropriate relations with other campers, or demonstrating inappropriate behavior. Teens involved in any such acitivities will be sent home immediately. A summer camp is a place for like minded individuals to get together and learn about a common topic of interest, interact with others of similar interests, and participate in activities related to the topic of the camp.

How much does a Teen Summer Camps cost?

Teen summer camps can range from being free to over $10,000. Check for local programs in our area and ask about scholarships or financial aid because a lot of them will get grants based on the number of individuals requesting and using financial aid.

Residential Treatment Centers

Residential Treatment Centers

What is a Residential Treatment Center?

Residential treatment centers for troubled teens are similar to Specialty Boarding Schools, except they include individual and group therapy. Being residential means the teens reside at the center, typically 6 – 18 months. Most residential treatment centers include a full academic program so teens can continue their education while at the center, however; education is secondary to maintaining emotional and behavioral health. They differ from Specialty Boarding Schools as they have therapist on staff and don’t usually need to contract outside services to provide individual and group therapy.

Which teens are appropriate for Residential Treatment Centers?

Residential treatment centers are long term, typically 6 – 18 months. They are most appropriate for teens that need long term help for serious issues like Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Depression, Bipolar disorder, as well as some personality disorders. Candidates for a residential treatment center would include teens that have been abusing drugs or alcohol, getting into a lot of trouble at school, or have other emotional or behavioral problems. Teens who have been to other ‘quick fix’ type programs or treatment centers and have returned to the old behaviors need more long-term help and can benefit greatly from the environment of a residential treatment center. Teens with suicidal ideation or severe depression would also benefit from a residential treatment center.

Which teens are not appropriate for Residential Treatment Centers?

Residential treatment centers may not be appropriate for teens that have only moderate problems. Teens that only need a ‘quick fix’ may not need a long-term program. A teen that is getting into mild trouble at school or has just started talking negatively may not need a residential treatment center. If problems are just beginning a family should consider local help and solutions that are not as drastic as sending the teen to a center for several months. Talking with professional counselors in your area can help you determine what kinds of treatment options are best for the teen issues and problems your family is dealing with. Some teens do very well with outpatient programs that allow them to live at home and continue to attend their regular school.

Why Residential Treatment Centers are appropriate for Behavior Modification?

Because residential treatment centers are long term and include therapy, they give the teen enough time to make lasting changes. Residential treatment centers include therapy and are able to spend the time working with the teens to delve deep into the causes of the emotional and behavioral problems the trouble teen may have and to introduce them to a new environment that will, over time, adapt their thinking and the way they process their environment to help them make better decisions in the future. Because the poor behavior was often exacerbated by environmental factors that contributed to their problems, it may be required that their previous living conditions change once they leave the residential treatment center to prevent relapse. Some residential treatment centers are available for many issues including: abuse, drug and alcohol use, behavior issues etc.

How much does a Residential Treatment Center cost?

Teen Treatment Centers are more expensive than Specialty Boarding Schools because they include therapy. The costs range between $4,000 to $11,000 a month. Some expenses for the therapy may be paid by health insurance. Check with your health insurance company before assuming they will pay for any of the costs of a residential treatment center.

It is important to note that residential treatment centers are not always drug treatment centers – you should look into drug rehab facilities if you are looking for drug treatment.

What to ask before choosing a Residential Treatment Center

Because not all treatment centers are created equal, it is important to do a lot of research and ask a lot of questions before selecting a program for your teen. The following is a general list and it is not mean to be fully inclusive but will give you an idea of the type of questions to ask and research.

  • Is the center licensed by the state and what specifically is the center licensed for: metal/behavioral health, rehabilitation, education, etc.?
  • What academic curriculum is available, if any? How much priority is place on education? Do all participants participate in an educational program?
  • Does the residential treatment center have accreditation? There are several independent, non-profit organizations that provide accreditation for these programs and you can check with them to find out more about a specific centers accreditation: Joint Commission (JACHO), Council on Accreditation (COA), and Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).
  • What credentials do your directors and staff have? Ask about degrees, experience, endorsements, and references.
  •  How much experience does the staff have? Have they worked at other residential treatment centers? What type of issues are they trained to deal with? Do they have CPR and other emergency training?
  • What type of pre-assessment screening is done? How familiar do you become with individuals and their problems before accepting them into the program?
  • Does each person have an individualized program and how often is the program assessed?
  • How is discipline handled? What happens in case of an emergency?
  • How often can you communicate with your teen? How is success defined/determined? Is there any kind of refund policy if the program is not completed and/or is unsuccessful?

If you have specific concerns for your teen, be sure and find out ahead of time how the center will handle the situation or issues you are wondering about. Check  with the US Government Accountability Office to see if any complaints have been filed with the center and what the outcome was.