A Foster Teen’s Advice for Foster Parents
Foster parenting is hard work that comes with lots of rewards. There is so much fulfillment in offering your home and your heart to children and teens who need them. But just as parenting doesn’t come with a manual, neither does foster parenting, especially foster parenting for a teen.
People of every age are each unique and come with their own personalities, experiences, and ways to process the world. Welcoming a foster teen into your home and having to discover what it is they need from you can have you wondering what to do or how to parent.
While there are no definite answers that work across the board for all foster teens, we thought it would be helpful to offer advice to foster parents from the prospective of someone who has been through foster care themselves. Check out these insights into how you can best help your foster teen while they are in your home.
We Don’t Always Want Parenting, But We Always Need Love and Support
Parents will always “parent,” and foster teens get that. But parenting a child should look different from parenting a teenager. Sometimes, teens can feel as if their foster parents are treating them the same as all other foster children, regardless of their age.
Every child is different, and every child has been through their own unique journey to end up in foster care. It can be tough figuring out how to navigate these complexities and to discover what kind of parenting style your foster child or teen needs. However, one thing is certain: your child or teen needs to know they are loved, safe, and supported.
It’s Okay to Give Space
Instead of applying a more hands-on parenting style the way you might for a young child, consider parenting your teen by giving them the space they need and loving them where they are at. Of course, you can and should establish boundaries and house rules with every child who comes through your door, but give your foster teen the room they need to acclimate to your home, learn about your family, and process what they are going through.
It’s Okay to Communicate
In fact, you have to communicate with your foster teen to establish your house rules, expectations, and what the teen can expect from you while they are under your care. But, be sure your teen knows that you are always there to lend an open ear and an open heart. It’s important for your teen to know you will offer empathy, love, and support for what they have faced and are facing. Model healthy coping skills to your teen, and always leave the lines of communication open for the times when they need to or want to talk.
Communication also helps you learn about your foster teen, which is the number one way to discover how you can best support them. Don’t be discouraged if your teen will not open up right away, and don’t insist they open up, either. With time and respectful distance, your teen may find comfort in sharing about themselves.
When the opportunity strikes, ask your teen about their:
- Food preferences
- Favorite activities or places to go
There is so much to learn about your teen, and that learning will help you help them even more.
Please Be Patient, We’ve Been Through a Lot
Patience and persistence are two crucial aspects of being foster parents, especially when you are fostering a teenager. Foster children of any age experience a great deal of trauma, whether at the hands of their parents, other family members, or even other foster families. There is a reason they are in your care now, and many times those reasons are difficult to process. For the child who has lived through them, the trauma is likely to alter the way they think, behave, and approach the world around them.
For foster teens specifically, they are likely to have experienced many difficult years that have shaped them into the person they are now. Regardless of whether the teen has spent the majority of their life as a foster child or they are new to the foster care system, they have gone through so much to reach the point of walking through your door. It’s understandable if your teen is closed off, prickly, jaded, or burned out.
And on top of it all, your teen is still going through adolescence.
Adolescence is a significant time in any person’s life—hormones run wild and the body changes, which throws us all for a loop at some point. When you consider your foster teen’s changing hormones, newly changed (or still changing) bodies, the kind of parenting they have already received from their family and possibly other foster parents, and the events they have been through to wind up in foster care, it’s important to realize the last thing your foster teen needs is a lack of understanding.
You will do a world of good for your teen simply by offering your patience, remaining compassionate, and creating a safe, stable environment for them to live. Let your home be the place where they can relax, breathe, and feel at ease.
At Generational Child Care, we offer continuous support and the resources you need to become a foster parent in Georgia. Our teens and children need loving homes, and we invite you to join other foster parents in the mission to love and support them with a safe place to live. Discover more about becoming a foster parent in Georgia by contacting 478-477-1289.