Many parents struggle with the decision of sending their child away to get help. It's hard to imagine that your child's smiling face won't be there when you get home, that a place at the dinner table will be empty, or that your child won't be sleeping in the bed that he's been in every night since he was little. Sometimes you might start to second-guess yourself, feeling guilty or fearful that you're just trying to get rid of the problem temporarily and that your child might hate you for it. And yet all these reasons that seem to keep you from making the decision are sometimes the very reasons that you should. Maybe he hasn't been in his bed when he should be. Maybe the dinner table hasn't been a pleasant place for years, filled with either silence or conflict. And maybe it wasn't a smile that you've been coming home to but growing disappointment. Will he hate you, or does he hate you already? Is it sending him away that's causing you to feel guilty or the possibility that you've ignored the problem for far to long in hopes that things will get better on their own?
Most parents feel that sending their child away to get treatment is an extreme move and usually don't come to make such a decision until after all other alternatives have failed. They may have tried different parenting approaches, various outpatient programs, or sought the help of professional therapists and counselors without any success. Trying to take care of the problem at home can work if you have a child that's willing and a good deal of family support. However, children rarely admit to having a problem and tend to blame everyone but themselves for their situation. This denial of their existing issues means that children are typically very resistant to any kind of therapy. They may likely engage in manipulative behavior to get out of treatment. Others may just go through the motions to give the appearance that they are working towards improvement. This is fairly easy for a child to do, especially if they only have to see the therapist or participate in an outpatient program once or twice a week. At this point, nothing is being accomplished and sending your child away to get help may be the only effective way of dealing with the issues.
Treatment away from home differs from more local alternatives in a lot of ways. Most prominent is the fact that the children are removed from their current environment and away from the typical stimuli that trigger emotional or behavioral problems. These triggers can be a difficult classroom setting, the wrong group of friends, availability of drugs and alcohol, or negative interactions with parents. Things that the child once took for granted will likely be removed as well. Sometimes these are somewhat trivial things like TV, fast food, and hot showers. Other times it's the friends and family that they were use to abusing and taking for granted. In any case, being in an environment that they aren't used to gives the kids a chance to look at their own issues without distraction and from a clear perspective. Secondly, having your child stay at a treatment program means they are effectively immersed in multiple forms of therapy and it becomes very difficult for them to escape their issues. Direct care staff will usually interact with the kids on a daily basis, giving them a far better chance of develop a trusting and open relationship. This relationship is essential for counseling to work and the lack of it is one of major reason why therapy often fails at home.
As difficult as it may be, you sometimes have to realize that there is only so much you can do as a parent. Just as there are doctors who can take care of a child who is physically sick or injured, there are professionals and programs that can help with a child's emotional and behavioral issues. If you do make the decision to send your child away, make sure that you are doing it for the right reasons. It should be for the well being of your child and family, and not just to get the problem out of your home. Be sure that whatever treatment program you choose is one that you feel fully confident in. Lastly, it is ever important that you continue to be involved and well aware of what is happening with your child while they are away. Treatment can easily fail again without your support. It's not just your child's problem, it's a family problem, and you should take that journey together.