Boot Camps for 14-Year-Old Troubled Teens

Boot camps are structured environments intended to provide your teen with military-style discipline and rigorous physical training to change habits and behavior patterns 1. Different from summer camps and boarding schools, boot camps are short-duration homes away from home, in which the teen is expected to relinquish control of his or her life completely 1. If your teen is experiencing problems with anti-social behavior, relationship issues, substance dependency or addiction, the boot camp experience may help him to confront and understand the consequences of negative conduct and learn more acceptable ways in which to behave. Following rules, respecting authority and improving interactions with family, friends and society are common goals of the boot camp experience.

Types of Camp

Look for a boot camp that addresses your teen’s specific issues. Specialist camps are offered for individuals with anger-management problems, oppositional defiant disorder, ADD/ADHD, drug or alcohol dependency problems, truancy and gaming addiction, among others. Depending on your location, these will either be run as private organizations or be funded by the state. They will not be inexpensive, but, depending on the degree to which your 14-year-ld is troubled, they may offer a long-term benefit that is well worth the short-term cost.

Boot Camp Experience

Although the duration of each camp varies, your 14-year-old will typically spend between 20 days and 40 days in a residential program, sharing communal living areas–bunk bed, foot lockers and dorms–that are subject to random inspection and strict control. She may have to wear a uniform–an external sign of subservience, discipline and conformity. She will learn to follow rules and orders immediately and without question.

Psychological Change

Apart from the physical demands of boot camp, your 14-year-old will also experience psychological and emotional challenges. These often include disorientation, homesickness, a feeling of disconnection from everything that was familiar and panic. These negative emotions are induced in the teen in order to make her reliant upon her drill instructor. In this way, a strong bond of trust is formed between the adolescent and the instructor that aids in inculcating more socially desirable values. Some camps create a complete disconnect between teens and their family and friends, while others encourage parents and siblings to stay in contact by sending photos, small gifts and letters. Before sending anything to your teen, however, you should check into your camp’s policy and ensure that you adhere to it.

Boot Camp Success

Secondary to a changed perspective and more socially acceptable behavior, perhaps one of the greatest long-term benefits of boot camp is the friendships your 14-year-old will make. As challenging as this experience will be, your teen will not be alone. He will face the ordeal alongside others whose victories he will celebrate and from whose failures he will learn and grow. The bonds forged by teens at boot camps are destined to last a lifetime, as these adolescents will have shared their lowest points and wildest successes 1.