The teenage years are well-known for their turbulence. However, what is less advertised is the absolute joy teens and young people can bring as well. These fiercely independent soon-to-be-adults are finding their feet one step at a time, they still need you but they’d never admit it. Fostering teens is much the same, and they do need guidance in an advanced way sometimes, but it is manageable with the right tips, tricks, and strategies. If you are stepping into a caring role where you must advocate for teens, read the five tips below for some essential guidance.
Steer Clear of Criticism
The first rule for raising teens in foster care is to steer clear of criticism wherever possible. Fostering strategies always call for neutral approaches that veer sharply away from fuelling conflict. Where a teen might seek it out, it will your job to counteract positively and intuitively, while maintaining boundaries and fairness. This takes practice, but the approach is intended to build attachment and create a sense of safety that resonates in all aspects of their life. It also builds self-esteem and confidence, which are invaluable to a foster teen trying to find their way in the world.
Know Your Area
One consideration about teenagers is facilitating their social life. Positive social behaviours are essential, so your role in that is getting to know the hotspot hangouts and ensuring that there is a degree of safeguarding at these locations. Whether you are fostering in Manchester or a different city entirely, there will always be precarity to navigate.
Teens are a stone’s throw away from becoming fully-fledged, responsible adults in their own right. That means you have some preparation work to do to help them when the time comes for them to be on their own. Responsibility can look like a lot of different things from learning how to cook to navigating conversations about handling finances. There is lots of useful advice you can bestow in this area, and you absolutely should.
Endorse Appropriate Privacy
Appropriate privacy means helping teens learn about consent and the well-being of their bodies. They may have incomplete information about these topics because of their background, and you have to be the safe adult that joins the dots. They have the right to privacy, as all people do. However, you still have to keep them safe so finding boundaries within that prism is essential.
Make Time When They Ask
One of the best things you can do for them as their carer is to give them your time and attention when they clearly need it. Children and teenagers often ask for input, and your job is to tick that box and meet that need! If they are saying ‘spend time with me’ the only answer you should be giving is ‘okay, what shall we do and when?’. This will count towards affirming healthy relationship models more than other strategies combined.
Fostering teens is no more challenging than any other age. Regardless of their history and background, fostered teenagers need boundaries and positive relationship models as much as non-fostered ones do. Your role will be to provide that care.