Remember when you dreamed of having a sweet baby girl? An adorable tot you could dress up and have tea parties with and teach wonderful things to? A daughter who would grow to be an accomplished and loving woman and a dear friend?
It’s a lucky mother whose dream survives entirely intact through her daughter’s adolescent years. Instead of sharing clothes, you’re suddenly exchanging hostile looks across the breakfast table. Her grades are plummeting, her behavior is deplorable, and her conversational skills have been replaced by monosyllabic responses and impatient eye rolls. What happened between playing dolls and becoming a teenager that changed that picture?
Well, it’s partly hormones, it’s partly the teenage brain developing in fits and spurts, and it’s partly just a young person trying to become independent while adapting to a world that’s changing faster every day. Add to all that a mood or emotional disorder, a learning disability, an addiction, or other difficulties, and no wonder you don’t recognize your own child anymore.
Your own parenting style may incline you to tough it out and wait for this miserable phase to end. And for some girls, support and buckets of patience on your part are all they need to get through it. But other kids have challenges that require more than you can handle on your own. Fortunately, there are many resources for outside counseling your daughter can participate in while living at home. And if the situation warrants it, there are also fine boarding schools for troubled girls that offer continuing education combined with therapies and guidance designed to help them resolve their issues and prepare for successful adult lives.
Deciding that your daughter would be best served by leaving home can be an emotional wallop, and beyond that, the choices of boarding schools can be bewildering. Here are some guidelines that can help make your choice:
Listen to the Professionals But
By the time you’ve reached this point, your head may be swimming with advice from counselors and therapists. Some of it may have been hard to hear, too. Don’t dismiss any of it because of that. But do put it through the filter of what you know about your own daughter. Be open to professional suggestions, but In the end, you’ve got to make the decision yourself. Rely on your own instincts to know what kind of school feels right.
Don’t Be Swayed by Guilt
You’re sending your own daughter away from home, and even though you know it’s for the best, it’s not going to make you feel great. Just don’t lay a guilt trip on yourself and don’t let yourself be manipulated by your daughter or anyone else into feeling like the worst parent on the planet.
You’re doing this to make things better not only for your daughter but for the whole family. Conversely, don’t feel guilty if relief is one of the emotions you’re feeling. You’ve been going through a difficult patch and you’re allowed to let out a long breath.
Don’t Choose Only by Location or Price
There are certainly reasons for picking a school that’s close to home, if only to avoid expensive airfare or long drives. And there’s no doubt that some boarding facilities, whatever the location, are fairly costly.
Bankrupting the family isn’t the point, but if you can afford it or find financial assistance, check out all of the possibilities. Aim for the program that’s most appropriate for your daughter rather than one that’s nearby or less expensive but will be wind up being a waste of time and money.
Consider the Family in the Process
You know from experience that a troubled teen can have a significant effect on siblings and home life. By the time you’re considering boarding school, everyone else would benefit from counseling, too. Look for a school with a program that includes participation with scheduled visits and family sessions to bring you all back into harmony.
Understand That Things Will Take Time
No reputable school will guarantee that a problem can be resolved in some defined amount of time. Of course you’ll want to be given an educated guess, but every girl is different and establishing new patterns of behavior takes time. Trust the process and let things take their course.
Resources for more information are available at The American Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.