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How to successfully foster a teenager

Teenagers are often considered difficult and hard to handle, especially in terms of fostering. As with all age groups this might be true for some children, but with the right approach looking after teenagers can be hugely rewarding. Often people, professionals included, will think of teenagers as mini-adults and treat them accordingly. However, teenagers are still children and need the same guidance, support, and nurturing that all children need.

There are many factors that contribute to successfully caring for teenagers. Hopefully the following information will help provide prospective foster carers with what they need to consider when thinking about fostering a teenager.

Education
It is important teenagers are enrolled in school and their attendance should be actively encouraged. Where possible carers should encourage children to be actively involved in school activities and be willing to help with their homework. Carers should talk to them about their favorite subjects and offer support and guidance on obtaining qualifications that will prepare them for later life.

As well as formal educational provision carers should help teenagers acquire life skills that will help them transition into adult life. This can include cooking, cleaning, and financial skills such as budgeting, opening bank accounts, and paying bills.As a carer it may also be your first time caring for a teenager, so it is important you are also open to learning new skills and ways of engaging a young person. Fitzgerald Fostering will be there to support you with this and make sure you help the young person reach their full potential.

Give them space.
The teenage years are when we transition from being a child to an adult, and a big part of this transition is developing a sense of independence and individuality. To support this transition, it is important to provide teenagers with privacy and space. Even though every teenager placed with you should be included in family activities, it is important that they have some time on their own and that their privacy is respected.

Allow them to explore their individuality by allowing them independent time to do some of the things they like. Sometimes this developing individuality and sense of independence can present as rebelliousness or as a challenge to the existing rules. In these situations it can be easy to react in a negative way, but it is really important to talk to the young person to try and understand how they feel. Talking and listening are the most important things you can do when caring for teenagers.

Setting boundaries with clear expectations is still important. Teenagers need to understand the rules of the house, with clear and realistic expectations around behaviour ensuring everyone feels safe.

Routine and structure
Having a routine and structure in place, that includes house rules, is another important way for teenagers to understand what they can expect from the family and how they fit into it.

Giving them responsibilities around the house such as household chores (appropriate to their age, level of understanding, and in line with other household members) can help them feel a valued member of the household whilst also developing independent living skills. It is also important that there is a clear sense of structure to the household’s day, including meal times, bed times, etc. This helps everyone know what to expect and when to expect it, whilst also allowing teenagers to fit their own plans around these timings.

Planning for the future
Thinking about the future for all teenagers is very important. Helping them identify goals and how to achieve them is part of enabling them to make a successful transition from your care into adulthood. Goals should be realistic and can include education, employment, and the life skills they will need for independence. Your support can be critical in creating a positive experience for a young person. Every teenager’s goals will be different and should be tailored to what works best for them. Fitzgerald Fostering can help you access resources that will support you and the children you care for identify the right goals and how best to go about achieving them.

All teenagers need to start to develop the skills to look after themselves. These can include learning how to cook, wash clothes, budget, and pay bills. Involving them in how the household runs can be a really good way of making them feel part of the family as well as enabling them to develop these crucial skills. A big part of this can also be helping them to make healthy lifestyle choices in terms of what they eat and how much they exercise. All of which will help them in later life.

Keep them safe.
Many young people in foster care could be vulnerable to being exploited by others, whether its is their peers or dangerous adults. As we have said through out this article it is critical you talk to teenagers so any concerns can be picked up early. Changes in behaviour or friendship groups can be normal adolescent behaviour but they can also be indicators that something is not quite right. By maintaining a relationship where you are interested in a young person’s life the nature of any changes can be easier to understand, and if a young person is worried about something they will be more likely to talk to you about it. Encouraging positive peer relationships and talking to teenagers about how they keep themselves and others safe can be key. Being available to talk and answer questions when needed, whilst also discussing strategies on how to manage different situations can also be critical.

Teenagers digital lives are a key element of their identity and understanding what they are doing on line and with whom can also ensure they are as safe as they can be. Make sure there are appropriate content controls on digital devices and access points, but never assume these are all that is needed. Again, conversation and discussion are the best way to help teenagers stay safe and for you to understand what they are doing and with whom.
Finally, let them know that they can talk to you about anything and ask for advice whenever needed. If they know you are always there when they need someone, this will help them feel safe and secure.

Finally…
Fostering a teenager can seem daunting, but these tips should help you feel confident and prepared to take on this responsibility. Remember, fostering is not an easy job, but it is a very rewarding one.

We offer training to carers and 24/7 support so you don’t feel like you are doing this alone. If you are interested in becoming a foster carer, feel free to give us a call on 01753 550031 or Contact us

AuthorFitzgerald Fostering

DateFebruary 27, 2023

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