Dear Mothers of Troubled Teens in Therapeutic Boarding Schools

Mother’s Day approaches and your family doesn’t look like the scenes portrayed in Hallmark movies or florist commercials. It’s not the perfect family. Here’s a universal truth: There is no perfect family. The reality is that your teen is in a therapeutic boarding school, and you may not be able to visit with him or her on Mother’s Day. This doesn’t mean that you are not a good mother. It’s clear that you love your child. Certainly, you miss your child. You have made a difficult, but loving decision to place your teen where he or she is safe and receiving much-needed help. On this Mother’s Day, remember that you still deserve to celebrate being a mother.  

Think of the situation in this way: If your child had appendicitis, you would not try to perform surgery yourself – not unless you are a surgeon. You would take your child to the doctor and then to the hospital for an operation that will save the child’s life. You would sit and wait while the doctor and nurses take your child to surgery, because at that point there is nothing else you can do to help. If you’re religious or spiritual, you pray for your child. The fact that your child got sick and needs surgery does not mean that you are a bad mother. A good mother takes her child to the doctor when the child needs medical care. In effect, this is what you have done by placing your child in a therapeutic boarding school. You’ve wisely realized that your child’s condition needs to be treated by professionals. You have put your child in the hands of an experienced and dedicated staff, and you will wait, while they do their work. Your child is receiving help and healing.  

Please don’t feel shame that your teen has been struggling. Teens develop behavioral, emotional, and psychological conditions in the best of families. You’ve probably felt angry and frustrated with your teen at times. These emotions are natural under the circumstances. Please don’t feel guilty. Know that you have taken a brave step in accepting that you need help for your troubled teen, and you have done what’s necessary to make sure your teen gets that help.

If you have other children, please remember that they love you and they need you, too. Spend time with the rest of your family on Mother’s Day. Do something fun together. Don’t lose the day by being distracted and worried about your troubled teen who’s at a therapeutic boarding school. Know that this separation is temporary and necessary for your child’s healing. Focus your attention on your other children and enjoy their company.

A good mother takes care of her family, but also takes care of herself. Don’t make yourself sick with worry and guilt. You are a good mom and a good person. You’ve made sure your troubled teen is getting help. Now remember to love yourself and celebrate yourself. Do something you enjoy. It’s ok if you have a happy Mother’s Day.

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