By Leslie Davis
Every year you look forward to waking up on a brisk winter morning to gather around the Christmas tree with your family and frantically unwrap gifts. You anticipate the excitement of your teens getting the iPod they were coveting or their favorite TV show on DVD.
What you didn’t anticipate was your teens dragging themselves down the stairs in a marijuana-induced haze, sullenly unwrapping the gifts you put so much thought into. You weren’t looking forward to the inevitable bickering that would continue throughout the day, and had been going on during your teens’ entire holiday break.
You thought these behaviors would magically disappear on a day that’s supposed to be filled with so much cheer.
If you have been struggling with your teens’ behaviors all year, the best gift you can give them is a chance to get away from the stress of the holidays and families and work on themselves. That gift can be found in the form of a 28-day wilderness therapy program that can enhance their coping skills, communication skills and self-esteem.
“It’s a great time to take advantage of the opportunity that students are already out of school and help them return from Christmas break successful,” said Dan Kemp, director of admissions at SUWS Programs, a premier wilderness therapy program in Shoshone, Idaho.
Wilderness programs can help your teens identify and work through their conflicts and emotions, making them better able to deal with family and school. The programs provide a safe and nurturing environment in which teens can recognize and build upon their self-worth while they learn the value of helping others.
The thought of not having your teens around for the holidays may be difficult for you, but so is spending yet another holiday season walking on eggshells and wondering what kind of trouble your kids are going to get in or what they will start fighting about next.
There are many reasons why enrolling your teens in a wilderness therapy program during the holidays makes sense.
Less School Missed
Most schools provide at least two weeks off during winter break. A typical wilderness therapy program runs 28 days, meaning your teens will miss less school than they would if you sent them during the school year. “They have the ability to make drastic changes in a short time,” Kemp said. “It’s an intervention that would absolutely help their self-esteem and self-worth.”
Not Rewarding Bad Behavior
If your teens have been acting out, disobeying house rules and engaging in risky behaviors, giving them gifts during the holidays may only act to reward bad behaviors - especially if you are avoiding or overlooking those behaviors in order to have a “nice” holiday season.
By enrolling your teens in a wilderness program instead, you are indicating to them that their behavior will not be tolerated. You can keep your teens’ gifts until after the wilderness program is complete, when you will be able to reward the progress and positive changes they have made.
Holidays are ‘Trigger Times’
Holidays are stressful for everybody. They often drum up family issues that have been suppressed during the year, or that your teens were able to cope with because they were at boarding school. But stress of the holidays and family can trigger your teens’ behavioral issues or substance abuse, no matter how calm you try to make the festivities.
Instead of trying to just make it through another holiday season while hoping that your teens won’t act out, have them learn positive coping skills at a wilderness therapy program. You’ll thank yourself with every stress-free future holiday your family enjoys together.
Future Holidays Free from Drama
Yes, there’s a good chance you might feel some guilt about enrolling your kids in a wilderness program during the holidays. But remember how much more stressful the holiday season was last year because your teens were moody, withdrawn and acting out? Unless your teens have received some type of adolescent treatment during the year, there’s a good chance this year’s holiday season won’t be any different.
Your angry teens are probably not going to enjoy spending dinner with family and singing Christmas carols, and family time won’t be so warm and merry if nobody is getting along. Getting your teens the help they need this holiday season will give them the chance to have healthier holiday celebrations in the future. After spending time in the wilderness, your teens are likely to return home excited to spend time with family, and appreciative of the warm meal on the table.
A White Christmas
If your teens grew up in a warm, sunny climate, they may have never experienced a true white Christmas with snow-capped trees, snowball fights and snowmen. Spending some time in a true winter wonderland may be exciting for your teens, and provide a well-needed change of scenery while renewing their sense of wonder about nature and the holidays.
The staff at wilderness programs is aware that your teens are away from their family on holidays, and work to instill some holiday cheer. At SUWS, students are treated to a turkey dinner and make homemade decorations that they can use to decorate a live Christmas tree in the wilderness. At Outback, a wilderness therapy program in Lehi, Utah, teens make handcrafted gifts for each other and exchange gifts on Christmas Day.
Waiting Won’t Make Things Better
If your teens’ behaviors have gotten so bad that you are considering not having them around for the holidays, then you know you need help. Waiting until after the holidays won’t make things any better. “If you have teens who are struggling, you know it - and we’re here to help,” Kemp said.
Your teens’ behaviors will not improve by waiting. There’s a good chance they will only get worse. Taking their focus away from the stress of the holidays, family and school can help set them up for a more successful new year.
Make this year’s gift to your teens a gift that will last a lifetime - enroll them in a wilderness therapy program that will renew their outlook on life and make them look forward to spending future holidays with family.