Woodbury Reports Archives


The Internet's leading source of information on emotional growth schools & programs

Archives Contents

Archives Home
Contents by Year
      1989 - Present
Contents by Topic
      Industry News
      Schools & Visits
      Opinions & Essays

Archives Search

The easiest way to find information is by using our search function. Just type in the words you would like to search for and you'll get a list of articles related to your topic.

Site Index

Schools & Programs
Chat Board
Online Store
Contact Us

Opinion & Essays - Mar, 2000 Issue #67 

Should I Send My Child Into the Wilderness??
By Kristie Vollar
(208) 267-5550

[The author is the daughter of Woodbury Reports publisher Lon Woodbury and his wife Denise. She graduated from the Explorations Wilderness Assessment Course and Mission Mountain School, both in Montana in 1993. She was inspired to write this article after participating in conversations with other parents while working at her father’s office. Her presence there is a demonstration of the positive relationship that has evolved since she has returned from the above-mentioned programs.]

Some people ask why would I send my child into the wilderness as an intervention? How is it going to help them? How could the wilderness be more helpful to them than a classroom or a psychologist’s office?

I feel there is something about the wilderness that has a “magical” effect on people. It teaches survival, leadership, self-confidence, and helps to break down barriers that block progress. Children can learn traits about themselves that they never knew existed, and at the same time, they are away from the distractions that could keep them from dealing with the behaviors and issues that caused them to arrive at such a road block in their lives.

In my experience, the wilderness was an ice-breaker. I was so closed to everything around me, and so self-conscious, that I had become a follower. I had begun to do things that my “friends” wanted me to do, not what I knew deep down were the right and moral things. I had given up on myself and my ability to judge. I only wanted to keep my “friends.” To please them, I followed them down the path of trouble and deceit. The wilderness was a wonderful way of teaching me that I could be a leader, and I was in control of my own life. At the same time, I learned that my every decision had direct consequences.

When I realized that I was on my way to a wilderness program, I was furious. I knew that I would be leaving my “friends” behind, and would be stuck out in the middle of nowhere for at least a month. Being raised with knowledge about this type of program made it even worse.

When I actually began the program, I thought it was much worse than I could have ever imagined. I had to start a fire with a stick and sleep under a tarp that I had to set up and take down every day, by myself. I had to boil my water before I could drink it, I couldn’t wash my hair or wear deodorant, and the pack on my back was so heavy... To top it all off, it rained every single day.

When I finished the trip and we had made it back to the beginning of the trail, I was so proud that I had hiked 104 miles! I had learned self-confidence and was eager to show my parents just how to start the bow-drill fire that I had relied on to cook my food and boil my water while I was out there. There was only one more step to seeing my parents.

Solo: Three days alone at a campsite where they had taken me. I had no contact with any of my peers. I couldn’t even talk to them when they brought me water and checked to make sure I was okay. The purpose of solo was to reflect on what I had learned and access what I still needed to learn. Being alone at that time was for me, a nightmare. I still felt lonely when I was by myself, and now I had to be by myself.

I learned that it is a wonderful thing to be alone. Now when I am alone, I am no longer lonely. Being in nature by myself, gives me peace of mind and serenity; a necessity to life itself.

Many adolescents have grown accustomed to their environments, and know just how to manipulate everything and everyone around them to get their way. By sending them out to the wilderness, the dramatic change in their environment makes their manipulations no longer effective. Nature doesn’t respond to manipulation; there is very little margin for error. With the guidance of the professionals who walk with them on their path through the wilderness, adolescents can grow and learn about themselves in a way they never knew was possible. Nature can be a useful tool for teaching adolescents to respect themselves and the things around them, and it can help them heal and grow to be the strong people that they are inside.

Copyright © 2000, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

Site and content copyright © 2000 by Woodbury Reports Inc. All rights reserved.