Welcoming your teen home after time at a therapeutic boarding school can be a time filled with conflicting emotions. On the one hand, you have missed your teenager being at home and part of family activities.
On the flip side, you may be concerned about how his behavior will be, particularly if he went into therapeutic boarding school with several behavioral or mental health concerns to address. Even with frequent contact with your teen and reports from his counselors and teachers, you may not know who your teen is today.
Stress and anxiety about this situation can stretch beyond parents worrying about adjusting the household to your teen’s return. Your teen may also feel a bit of anxiety about going home. Other family members could be feeling concerned about what life is going to look like with your teen back in the house.
Everyone is likely to have many questions and concerns. The best way to handle it all is to take some time to think about what it will mean to have him home and how everyone can best adjust.
What to expect from your teen’s homecoming
Whether your teen was at a therapeutic boarding school for behavioral issues, mental wellness issues, or a combination of both, he is certain to be different when he comes home. At his core, he’s going to be the same teen you’ve raised and loved.
But his mindset and his approach to the stressors and other environmental factors around him could be very different from what you remember.
What to expect from your teen upon his return:
- Your teen may be somewhat withdrawn when he comes home. This is normal, as he may be unsure about what to expect when he gets home. He may also be missing his teachers, friends, and other support staff at the therapeutic boarding school.
- If your teen asks to spend some time alone in his bedroom, don’t force family interaction. He may feel overwhelmed by being back at home. Allow him the time to reset and relax if he needs it.
- Don’t be surprised if your teen shows flashes of irritation when you or other family members ask him many questions. Again, he may be feeling overwhelmed and not yet be ready to answer questions.
- Emotions may be running high, and your teen may not know how to handle them at home yet. If he gets upset or tearful, it could just be a part of the adjustment period. Give him space but let him know that he is loved, and you are there for him when he needs you.
Your teen may not want to spend much time together as a family on his first night or two back. It could feel hurtful, but remember that he needs to adjust and transition to make sense to him.
Considerations when welcoming your teen home
Extended family members and your teen’s friends may all want to be there when your teen comes home. Keep in mind that your teen may not be in the right frame of mind to be welcomed by a large group of people all at one time.
Skip the big welcome home celebration and party. Instead, opt for a small family dinners that includes some of his favorite meals. Whether it’s pizza from the local place down the road or your homemade lasagna, the most important thing is that your teen can ease back into life at home.
A few other considerations can help make the transition a bit easier on everyone:
- Speak with your teen’s counselors at the therapeutic boarding school to gain a bit more insight into how he’s changed and grown in the months that he’s been away. This can help you get a better idea of his mindset, his approach to stress, and his goals for moving back home.
- Have a frank and open discussion with your other children and the other adult members of your family. Let them know what they should and shouldn’t expect from your teen when he comes home. This will be an adjustment for everyone, so it’s important that every person feels that their voice is being heard during this transition.
- If you’ve established new household rules, your teen will need to understand what they are, why they are in place and the consequences for not adhering to the rules. While you may be hesitant to spring this on him when he first gets home, it’s important to keep in mind that his time at the therapeutic boarding school would have been structured with had consequences in place.
- Many teens can feel a bit lost if they don’t know what is expected. Establish those rules and consequences so that he can understand expectations and also understand how he can better transition back into life at home.
- Have your teen help prepare dinner once he’s settled in, and don’t forget to add a few chores to his list. Preparing meals offers an excellent opportunity to talk, laugh, and get comfortable being around each other again. Go for walks around the neighborhood or a local park to spend time together away from the distraction of gadgets.
- Be sure to get ongoing counseling and family therapy. Every member of the family can benefit from it. If your teen has been going to peer support groups while at therapeutic boarding school, it can benefit him to continue these meetings once he’s home.
The transition period of a teen returning home from therapeutic boarding school can be smooth as can be. It can also be a bit of a bumpy road to navigate. Learn to read the cues your teen is giving you. If he feels uncomfortable, speak to him about what he is feeling.
A significant part of his homecoming is you all learning to once against understand and feel comfortable with one another. His time at therapeutic boarding school would have helped him to understand himself, the world around him, and learn valuable coping skills that can stand him in good stead as he learns to once again navigate the world outside of his boarding school.