If you are a parent who is desperate to find a type of intervention that would really make a difference in your troubled teen’s life, you have probably come across at-risk youth camps as an option. This is because this type of camps usually do come up as one of the viable solutions which has already been proven (by families who have tried it) to be effective in contributing to turning a troubled teen’s life around.
Of course, there are many different types of camps, and finding the right at-risk youth camp to answer the specific needs of your teen is highly important. There are different kinds of boot camps which employ a more “in your face” kind of discipline for young people, inspired by what typically goes on in a new-recruit military boot camp. There are facilities which specializes more in helping young people with drug and alcohol addiction. There are camps that specializes in helping young people with ADD/ADHD and/or language-based learning differences (like dyslexia, dyscalcula, etc) prepare for mainstream schools. There are wilderness camps that provide young people with a healthy and positive outlet for their energy and uses the lessons learned from nature to help them make better life decisions. These are just some types of youth camps that help struggling teens with their unique challenges.
What makes youth camps for at risk teens effective?
Positive peer culture – Young people are at a stage in their life when their peers have significantly more influence or hold more sway over them than their parents do. When parents physically take them away from a negative peer culture even for a short period of time, it really does change something in the perspective of teens. Putting them in an environment where there’s positive peer culture uses peer influence to help young people explore different ways of thinking about things. For example, teens who have been negatively influenced by their peers to engage in dangerous and reckless activities like drunk driving would benefit immediately from being taken to an at-risk youth camp where their access to alcohol is cut off, and there are no people putting them in a situation where they think drinking and driving is “cool” or acceptable. In place of taking irresponsible risks, at-risk youth programs can teach young people to recognize and learn responsible risk-taking.
Positive role models – Young people are at a stage in their lives where they are trying to find out what they want to be as they transition to adulthood. At times their concept of what a socially successful individual is can be quite flawed. For example, young people struggling with aggression are often witnesses or victims of how aggressive people may appear to be in control of situations and hold a higher social status, at least among the people that they bully. Sending your teen to a good at-risk youth camp may expose him to leaders who don’t use force or aggression in order to define his/her identity in a social setting. Interacting with positive role models help young people think about what they can aspire to be and gives them a renewed hope that they too can make something good out of their own lives and that they don’t have to keep on making bad decisions that will compromise their future.
Positive experiences – In struggling teens camp, young people engage in camp activities that teaches them important life skills (interacting with other teens, cooperation, honesty, etc.) and gives them this wholesome feeling of accomplishing or finishing something. Providing young people with many opportunities for positive experiences will help them chase after these experiences even after they get out of camp. For example, getting a healthy amount of physical activity and surviving for a few days in a wilderness setting where young people learn to cook their own food, set up their own tent and share stories with other campers is a positive experience. It brings young people to a point in their life which they will consciously or subconsciously bookmark in their minds. It gives them a kind of state of mind that they will strive after, and which they can naturally achieve by making the right decisions in life.
Like many other kinds of treatments, the responses and results of at-risk youth camp is not uniform across all young people who attend it. However, the success rate of many of these camps speak for themselves. It’s something worth looking into.