When we think about fostering some of us can think about looking after younger children or even babies. In fact a lot of foster parents, especially those in our agency care for older children. When teenagers enter the care system it can mean that they’ve experienced trauma for a long period of time. While teenagers may not always show it, just like everyone, they need love, and a secure, stable home environment too.
We’ve put together some key points to think about when fostering teenagers.
Hear their views
Many young people through their teenage years will have lots of views on lots of things! It's crucial they have the space to share them, foster parents are the sounding board for these thoughts, views, opinions and emotions. It’s important to listen to what your young person expresses and take their view seriously.
No matter how difficult communicating can be at times keeping the pathways to talking and listen open is important. Try asking for a young persons opinion about anything that might get them talking, fashion, world events, school or what’s for dinner! It can sometimes start to feel like it is always us that is willing to communicate and that we only ever get little back. It is important that the young people that we care for know that we are always open to communicating.
Privacy is a big thing for a young person at this time in their life. It’s the little things that show respect, from knocking on their bedroom door if its closed to respecting their judgement. As a foster parent you will always have concerns for their welfare but unless they have given us cause to or there is a serious worry about their safety, its important we respect privacy. At Changing Futures Fostering our peer support groups and therapeutic training can prepare foster parents for juggling the balance of privacy and a young persons safety.
Praise the teenager you care for as much as you would a younger child. Remember that teenagers experience totally different scenarios to what we did when we were teenagers. Social media, influencer culture, educational pressures and not to mention being a teen in a pandemic means now more than ever young people need a confidence boost. Although they may be unlikely to acknowledge your praise, they will hear and appreciate it.
Maintain Family Time
Where possible ( and we write this advice in the middle of a national lockdown) spend time together as a whole family, enjoying new experiences and being out and about. Building memories through experiences helps a young person develop a sense of self belonging and family relationships. It can be anything from a walk along the seafront or designating a night every 2 weeks or so to a family movie night.
Don't take it personally
We’ll be honest, fostering young people can be tough, there will be good days and bad days. It’s hard sometimes to care for teenager when it can feel like you don’t get anything back in the way of positive recognition for your care and concern. Our training and support package for foster parents means you don’t have to feel those feelings on your own. There is always someone at the end of the phone ready to listen.