Should we send our son to a therapeutic boarding school?


Dear Minister,

I have two sons: A is 13, and B is 9. Both are adopted and are non-biological siblings. My husband and I have had both boys since they were infants. We go to church twice a week, pray and study the word together every day, the boys go to an excellent private Christian school, and we have a strong, loving support network around us.

Until recently, both boys have been joyful, obedient, loving young men. In the last twelve months, A has been increasingly isolating himself. He has become withdrawn and sullen, disobeying direct orders and responding insolently. At his request, we enrolled him in a faith-based therapy program, which has helped a little, but he still isn't his normal self. He confides in us feelings of mental tiredness, loneliness, and anger but isn't able to identify the root causes. His school recommended an assessment with a local Educational Consultant, who has recommended a therapeutic boarding school for 12 months to stabilize his mental health and improve his discipline. B is distressed by A's behavior and has been increasingly tearful and fretful in response to A's behavior.

Should we send him to the school? Is it biblical to send him away, especially considering the potentially traumatic impact of being 'sent away' while knowing he is adopted? We want the best for both of our boys. My husband is undecided; I err toward keeping him home, but A is open to going to the school to get help. A further problem arises: the recommended school isn't faith-based, though they respect the faiths of boys in their care, and our son would be taken to a local church for worship. Is this enough?

We would be grateful for your advice. I want to emphasize that A's behavior doesn't align with normal teenage rebellion and growth. He shows a greater level of distress than is normal, and normal interventions like increased prayer, outpatient therapy, sports, heart-to-heart conversations, and good nutrition don't seem to be helping sufficiently.

Thank you for your time, and I apologize for my long-winded message. I want the situation to be clear while not revealing too many personal details lest my family be identified by peers reading your site. We don't feel shame over needing help, but we don't want our son to feel worse.

Thank you.

Yours Sincerely,


I understand the concerns, and what I'm most impressed with is the mention that your son is aware that something isn't right. I don't know if I have an answer for you. I don't know enough about the situation.

Your son is going through adolescence, during which time the brain rewires itself for adult thinking. At the same time, your son experiences hormonal changes that amplify his moods. Some people, especially males, tend to deal with uncertainty and confusion by shutting down. At some level, they assume that not saying anything and avoiding volatile situations is better than blowing up in anger or breaking down into tears. Boys also struggle to put their feelings and thoughts into words.

I don't know if the boarding school will be better or if staying home will be better. Generally, children do better in a stable environment, which typically would be the home. There are cases where a child has problems beyond what the parents can deal with, such as a child born with fetal alcohol syndrome. In such cases, a specialized school might help.

Perhaps you can talk to your son and ask him which he prefers. If he wants to go to the boarding school, then you will not be sending him away; he will be choosing to leave temporarily. However, if you are willing to work with the difficulties at home, then I would suggest not offering him the choice.

I'm not a professional in psychology. I'm just a preacher who deals with a lot of people. If you think it might help, I'm willing to talk with your son over video chats.

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