Wilderness programs offer a place outside of the rigors of normal life where nature provides a nurturing space to find oneself. Some children are reeling from the effects of a family in turmoil. If parents are in conflict than the child becomes the emotional barometer for that struggle. Other children find themselves at odds with an educational system that says one thing and does another. Nature is incapable of being duplicitous. Wilderness programs reveal nature to be just what it is, no double talk and an awesome balance that is wise and appropriate. Exposure to this is the ideal antidote for a world of double standards where nothing is as it should be.
This exposure can be tremendously healing if it is part of wilderness programs that respect the individual and take a sensitive yet firm approach. The combination of a context that is deeply natural and a structure that hopefully mirrors it, can teach a troubled teen how to regain self-respect and a way to cooperate with others without losing themselves. When deciding whether or not your troubled teen needs the benefits of one of the good wilderness programs out there make sure that the troubled or anti-social behaviors that the teenager is displaying are not appropriate responses to inappropriate situations.
If a teen suddenly becomes hostile towards authority do check the authority for signs that it may not be deserving of respect. In other words the teenager’s response to certain things may not be as inappropriate as it may seem. You need to communicate with them about the causes. Of course successful communication may be one of the very things that is suffering as a result of the teenager’s emotional struggles. Check that the child is having trouble with most forms of authority and not just one particular one.
Once you have established that your teenager is the one at odds you need to make yourself familiar with the various kinds of wilderness programs out there. Some are more physically and emotionally rigorous than others. If your child has shown him or herself to be especially robust in nature and stubborn in character, then the rigorous approach may be a match.
Try to choose wilderness programs that rely heavily on the wisdom of nature to teach the tough lessons. Nature does this in a way that can be more readily appreciated and understood by the alienated teenager. One can rail against authority or society but it is impossible to do battle with nature and win. The wilderness teaches invaluable lessons in healthy compromise. For children who are less robust and more fragile it is advisable to choose wilderness programs that reflect the gentle steadiness of nature. Exposure to the uncompromising honesty of nature and its natural cycles can teach a troubled teen to trust again and allow them to open up to others.
Nature does not judge, and troubled teens on the run from the crueler aspects of their previous environments will be given a chance to accept themselves and move towards a relationship with life that is both truthful and harmonious. Parents whose children are attending wilderness programs would benefit from taking a good honest look at the home environment. Toss the judgmental approach out the window and take advantage of the breathing space to change the things that may need changing in order to support the healthy rehabilitation of the family in general. Why not take an informal course in the wilderness to help reconnect with the important things. It will give you and your precious child something to share when he or she comes home again.
Wilderness programs can offer invaluable insights to teenagers in trouble. Visit the program to make sure that it practices what it preaches. You want the experience to open your child to a better life, not expose them to another form of authority that they will need to protect themselves from.