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Why Open Sky for Early Adolescents?

Exploring support outside the home, especially for a younger child, can feel overwhelming. Parents might have a lot of questions and wonder how their child will be cared for at Open Sky and what they might gain from the experience. Open Sky's early adolescent program combines the relational nature of outdoor living with high-level clinical experiences to help students evolve into healthy, functional people.

Healthy Habits

Building Routines Around Sleep, Exercise, Diet, and Mindfulness

Prior to coming to Open Sky, many of our students are stuck in unhealthy habits that are negatively impacting their moods and self-esteem. Open Sky’s holistic approach helps students return to healthy routines around eating, sleep, and exercise. Students also learn mindfulness skills such as yoga and meditation to become more grounded, calm, and regulated. We work with each individual student to help them discover what helps them feel most regulated. For some, it might be deep breathing, while others need activity to help with feeling settled.

Our goal is to help kids understand how simple shifts in their lifestyle can deeply impact how they feel. The active practice of these skills helps students integrate them into their daily lives. By the a student departs the early adolescent program, they have set the foundation for bringing these habits forward with them.

Confidence and Resilience

Establishing New Ways of Thinking, Feeling, and Approaching Life

A common theme for kids who come to Open Sky is that they lack confidence and belief in themselves. They are hesitant to explore beyond their comfort zones and avoid discomfort and challenge at all costs. This can look like avoiding school, social situations, chores, feelings, consequences, accountability, and relationships.

Spending extended time outdoors is a powerful way to challenge old beliefs and establish new ways of thinking, feeling, and approaching life. At Open Sky, we create space for our younger students to embrace appropriate challenges while also providing support, care, and encouragement. While in nature, early adolescents begin to understand that they are capable and strong. From the moment they enter the field to the day they leave, they have opportunity after opportunity to learn the skills they need to succeed and thrive in life.

Healing Community

Challenging Negative Beliefs and Finding Support

It is around middle school that kids start to compare themselves to their peers and notice each other's differences. This can be a painful process, especially for kids who feel they are already different or falling behind socially. At Open Sky, these students begin to see that they are not alone in their struggles, which challenges their belief that something is inherently wrong with them as a person.

In the early adolescent program, we stive to create an intentional group community where kids can connect and encourage each other to engage in the healing process. We help students separate their struggles from who they are so they can begin to adjust how they handle and express the pain associated with uncomfortable situations. We also create a community where kids can be kids! They laugh, play, and explore. They know they are not alone and begin to heal and grow.

Meaningful Connections

Developing Social Awareness and Maintaining Healthy Relationships

Our early adolescent students are at a transitional point in their lives. They are individuating from their parents and seeking more connection and attention from their peers. This is natural and healthy; however, it can be tricky to navigate for kids who lack the skills and awareness to form and maintain healthy relationships. As a result, many sink into isolation and depression while others begin to engage in risky behaviors to try to fit in and connect with others.

At Open Sky, our early adolescent program has a strong focus on building social awareness and skills. Our skilled therapists and field guides teach students how to use assertive communication, resolve conflict, and have thoughtful, mature conversations. Our students also explore the unhealthy or ineffective ways they may have been trying to meet their needs for love and belonging in the past, and we support them in finding new, healthy ways to build connection.

Values and Identity

Discovering Self and Sharing Authentic Connection

Many young people are afraid that if they are honest about who they are and what they struggle with, people will not want to be in relationship with them. However, it is difficult to heal, grow, and connect when we are not true to ourselves. This limits us in relationships and life.

At Open Sky, we teach kids the power of authenticity and vulnerability. Students experience how much better it feels to openly share their thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants. While it can be scary at first, they see the difference it makes in their relationships and the meaningful connections that can result.

Parallel Process

Strengthening Family Bonds

Because many of our younger students will eventually be returning home after treatment at Open Sky, it is imperative that parents do their own personal work to support and shift alongside their child. While students are actively working in the field, parents to undergo a parallel process. Through field phone calls and the full menu of services Open Sky offers to enrolled families, the early adolescent therapists help guide parents on this important journey.


Exploring the Natural World

Adventures are the best way to learn about ourselves and the world around us. They help us stretch our minds, cultivate curiosity, build resilience, overcome adversity, and promote personal reflection. Plus, they’re fun!

Open Sky provides the ultimate adventure for the early adolescent child, and we do so in a thoughtful, supportive way. Depending on the time of year, our students have the chance to explore the beautiful backcountry of Colorado or Utah. In Colorado, our students hike under rustling aspens, camp beside babbling brooks, and climb to breathtaking vistas. In Utah, they explore winding canyons, watch stars shoot through the vast desert sky, and observe remnants of ancient civilizations who lived on this land thousands of years before them.

As students adventure through their Open Sky world, they have a chance to explore new interests or reconnect with old ones. Some kids discover a passion for cooking and preparing delicious healthy meals, while others are drawn toward reading, playing music, singing, or creating art. Many find they enjoy hiking and hope to do more with their families in the future. Open Sky encourages this freedom for exploration and celebrates the various discoveries students make throughout their experience here.