Teenagers can be a tough crowd, but they can also be a blessing. For foster parents, it’s important to understand the challenges they face and the best ways to support them. These golden rules will help you know what to expect as a foster parent.
Respect their privacy
For a young person at this age, privacy is very important. Make sure your child respects yours and that you respect theirs. If they are sleeping, ring the doorbell if it is closed. Except in extreme cases where you are extremely concerned for your child’s safety, never read your child’s letters, emails, or texts, listen to their phone calls, spy on them, or search their room or bags.
Furthermore, avoid interrogating them n every time they come home from visiting their friends; otherwise, they will grow to hate you. Unless they’ve given you a reason not to, trust their judgment.
Consider their views
Your child will use you and your partner as “sounding boards” to express all of his or her opinions about a wide range of topics at this age. Some of the things your teen claims to be true will be complete nonsense.
Nevertheless, always pay attention to what your child has to say and respect their opinions. If you believe what they are saying to be incorrect or misguided, gently enlighten them with the truth by saying something like, “I read from an article that…”
Regardless of how difficult it may be, keep the lines of communication open. When your teen speaks to you, a single grunt is typically interpreted as “yes,” whereas a deeper grunt combined with a sigh may be interpreted as “no.”
Ask your child questions about her day at school or night out with friends, but don’t pry. Ask about current events, a new dress you just bought, the poodle’s new hairstyle, or anything else that might evoke a response.
Praise your child as much—or even more—than you did when they were young. Many pre-teens suffer from a loss of self-esteem and a negative body image. Praise them daily; even if you’ve had a bad day because they seem to relish conflict, find something positive to say about them or what they’ve done. They will hear and appreciate your praise, even if they don’t acknowledge it with anything more than a grunt.
Don’t be critical
Teens are particularly sensitive to criticism; they frequently feel it even when there isn’t any. Don’t berate your child personally if their behavior is offensive and needs to be changed or if they made a bad decision. Instead, you could say, “I know you’re irritated, but please don’t talk to me like that.”
Encourage your child to make the right choice, and then acknowledge and praise them when they do. Children at this age require guidance now more than ever, but they may not always be aware of this need.
They can be left to handle it and learn from their mistakes if it’s something relatively simple and safe, like the best way to make shortcrust pastry. However, your preteen must heed your advice if it’s a significant matter that could jeopardize their well-being.
Observe family time
Maintain family time and go on trips (despite your teen’s complaints). This strengthens family bonds and reduces conflict and rebellion. However, the extent to which your child participates may need to be adjusted. While you took your five-year-old to see Granny twice a week, that frequency may not be fitting for a 13-year-old with homework and club activities; fortnightly visits may be more practical.
As your child grows, give him or her age-appropriate responsibility and promote self-reliance to gradually acquire the life skills they need to make their own (sensible) decisions. Children acquire maturity levels and life skills at this age vary from child to child, so while it might be appropriate to ask a 13-year-old to saw up logs for the fire, it may not be a good idea to ask the same from a more impulsive child.
Keep your child secure
Children at this age make irrational assumptions about their safety and assume that they will always be safe. Young teens occasionally exhibit a startling disregard for danger and engage in extremely risky behavior, and when you tell them that they are at risk, they often act completely amazed.
Teenagers at this age are still very naive. Although they think they know how to take precautions, they frequently don’t because they have only recently left childhood and lack the life experience necessary to recognize the danger in circumstances that are apparent to adults.
When a rebellious “But I’m 13!” is hurled at you when you ask your child to do or not do something, you can respond, “Yes, I know, love, and you are growing fast, but I’m not happy about you coming home alone after dark.” Your level of protection is appropriate, and you are basing it on years of experience and reason.
Don’t mock or criticize your child or their behavior, since some of it may seem quite childish and silly. And don’t make fun of your young teen or tease them. They won’t be able to handle it, just as many adults find it difficult to take a joke or be made fun of. When there is an audience and they are all being laughed at, they will feel extremely humiliated and resentful.
Teens are extremely sensitive and easily embarrassed. Try to keep other adults from making fun of your teen as well. Unintentionally making fun of a young teen is something that well-meaning family members or friends frequently do.
There is no harm in siding with your young person this way; they will feel and appreciate your sensitivity and support, even if they don’t express it.
Keep your emotions in check
You are an embarrassment to your child at this age. Don’t take it personally because it’s normal. Don’t, however, do anything to put them in a bad light. This includes speaking loudly in public, kissing them on the cheek as you part ways, approaching them too closely in a crowded area, returning a defective item to a store while they are with you, and other similar actions.
Having a caregiver is often an embarrassment for a teenager, even though they know deep down that they couldn’t do without you.
If you’re a foster parent, there are several things you should know about the children living with you. Generally speaking, teenagers in foster care have experienced some extremely difficult life circumstances and will need extra help adjusting to their new lives. If you can be patient and understanding, fostering these teenagers will be a worthwhile experience for both you and them.
Ready to start your fostering journey? Contact Courage Community Foster Care in Colorado today!