Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Roughing It

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Does your teen need an attitude adjustment? Have you entertained the idea of shipping him or her off to one of those host families on CMT’s “Worlds Strictest Parents?” Maybe you are looking for a more practical solution, one where you don’t have to be selected to air your drama on national TV.

I have the perfect solution, and it doesn’t have to be expensive, either.


But not your regular summer session filled with cabins, pools and fun—something much more basic and centered around camping out and rustic living.

As teen-ager I had attended such a camp, the Episcopal Church-based camp in Canton, MS (Bratton Green) which has been offering adventures for teens for over 50 years.

What’s so great about Pioneer Camp besides the price (less than $500 covers the five-day teen vacation plus the required gear)? Both you and your teens will be glad they went.

Addy had her first go at Pioneer Camp this summer. Even though we are different in many, many ways—what I like to do for recreation, she usually doesn’t, and vice versa—I had no doubts that she would love Pioneer Camp. I was right.

Although I wanted to her to have fun, I also wanted her to gain from the experience. While at camp, you are required to be a functioning member of the team. You help with the chores, cooking and cleaning. Something else I wanted was for her to experience pushing her physical limits, which is accomplished by the activities done at camp such as going on long hikes, climbing steep rock walls, and going over the edge of a cliff (rappelling).

Having had the opportunity as a teenager, I knew the benefits. When facing challenging situations I could remember the time I climbed the wall or completed the 90-foot ropes course. I could tell myself, “If I can do that, I can do what I am facing at this moment.”

If you are the caregiver for a troubled teen, there are options for you as well, some more restrictive and demanding than others. Roughing-it programs might be a more palatable solution than appearing on reality TV. For more information, Google the subject. Find three to five options that work and then call to find out more details. Ask to speak to parents of previous campers to get more input.

I found a mix of offerings for severe situations—those who are court ordered, for example. Boot camp is another type of program for troubled teens, and typically has a military training component or disciplinary system in place.

There were also options for teens with mild to moderate issues and included trained therapists. One such place OutBack Treatment in Utah explains, “Outback, the wilderness treatment program, works with students, struggling teens or troubled teens, 13 to 17 years of age with a range of emotional and behavioral issues that may include Oppositional Defiance, Attention Deficit, Learning Differences, Low Self Esteem, Depression, Substance Abuse and Family Conflict.” They do not accept teens who are gang members, sex offenders or suicidal.

There are also plenty of options for those of you who don’t need help with a troubled teenager. Wilderness Adventures is one. The goal of Wilderness Adventures is “instilling self-confidence, self-reliance and lasting group leadership skills; and ... teaching responsible use of wild lands and concern for the continual preservation of these areas for future generations.”

Because of my own experience, I have always been a proponent of adventure camps for teens. Now that my daughter has also benefited, I want to share this good message with you.

Allyn Evans
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