For parents of teens, there are many difficulties that arise: bad attitudes, mood swings, anger issues and even harsh language. Dealing with this on a day-to-day basis can be difficult for any parent, but particularly for those who have chosen to be a foster parent.
Choosing to become a foster carer to a teen can be a very rewarding thing to do, but it can also present itself with a whole host of problems due to how the teen may have grown up previously. All of the typical teen issues can become even more intense in such a teenager. However, having the right attitude and approach can make a world of difference between a happy teen and one that feels weighed down by their life experiences thus far. It is just discovering what this approach should be that can be difficult.
So, how do you succeed as a foster parent for teens?
If you become a foster parent to make a difference in the lives of teens dealt bad hands, then be prepared to see the repercussions of this. It may simply be hurt feelings or it could be more persistent issues such as increased anger. You may be shocked by their language, attitude or behaviour on a daily basis.
Understanding where this is coming from is important to help you see past this and help them. Fostering requires compassion and care, but even more so when fostering teens who may feel the weight of the world on their shoulders.
When a teen has been in the system for a long period of time, they may become jaded to both the system and the people that are trying to help them – including you. Offering a kind ear is sometimes the first step to gaining a friendly rapport with your fostered teens. For some, they may feel that adults rarely listen to them and put them in positions they do not want to be in.
Be a soundboard for these issues, ask their opinion and give them choices. You may be surprised by how much better they react to someone who is willing to listen, even to their less positive opinions.
Before a teen enters your home, clear and firm boundaries need to be established. Ensure you know the rules that you will enforce, then have a heart-to-heart with the teen after they have settled in your home. They will be nervous and in an unfamiliar environment, so establishing rules and routine can be essential to help them acclimatise.
Not putting any boundaries in place can be disastrous as, without a structure, your foster teen may think they can go wild. Try and avoid this as soon as possible to prevent big issues with your foster teen.
The best way to help a fostered teen is to not expect the worst of them. Sometimes the simple act of giving them the benefit of the doubt is the best way to be successful. Of course, there are bad situations and examples of horror stories about teen fostering. But, just because those cases exist does not mean that your teen will create a similar situation.
Go into the experience with a positive attitude and you may be surprised by how well your teen responds.
Overall, there is no guarantee that your fostering experience will be a success. Trying to give a teenager who probably has not had the best start in life a good home, however, is never the wrong choice. Be open, be firm and be willing to adapt to help a foster teen take that next step into adulthood. You could be the difference between a positive transition into adulthood or not.