Meaningful Ways to Connect with Your Foster Teen
We take a look into the practical and impactful strategies you can implement with your teen.
While the idea of fostering teenagers might seem a little daunting, it can be much easier, not to mention a whole lot more fun, than you may think, as fostering a teen comes with its own set of unique challenges and rewards.
Not only can you be a part of a young person’s life during a pivotal stage, getting to know the incredible person they are, but you can help turn their life around by providing the love, security, and reliability to give them a happy and healthy future.
When fostering a teenager, it’s crucial to establish a strong and trusting relationship to support their emotional well-being and growth. We understand this isn’t always easy, especially with teenagers, but in this blog, we’ll take a look into the practical and impactful strategies you can implement with your teen. Strategies that can help you connect and help create a supportive environment to nurture their development.
8 Ways to build bonds and connect with your foster teen
Respect Their Individuality
Every teen is different and every foster teenager comes from a unique background. It’s important to acknowledge their identity and recognise their individuality.
If you have teenagers or children of your own at home, you should always avoid comparisons. Even if you’ve fostered teens before, they are all individuals and should never be compared to each other.
Your children have had the benefit of having a loving and secure home, and your foster teen might have come from a traumatic background, possibly from a completely different culture. All children need to be allowed to develop at their own pace, and being there to support and nurture them is the very best thing you can do.
Have Open and Non-Judgemental Communication
Due to their age, it’s likely that teenagers would have been exposed to more trauma in their lives. This can cause their emotions to run higher than normal. If they feel angry and frustrated, it’s probably nothing to do with you, but more a reaction to the situation, through no fault of their own, that they find themselves in.
This is why it’s important to have open and non-judgemental communication with your foster teen. Letting them know they are in a safe space and can talk to you about anything they want when they want to.
Active listening is great for this. You don’t need to pretend to understand everything they are going through, but instead, just listen. Keep eye contact, don’t interrupt when they are talking, stay focused, don’t jump to conclusions or plan what to say next and try not to impose your opinions or solutions. Let them talk and ask questions based on what they say. They might not be looking for a specific answer, but knowing that you’re there, listening, and hearing them can make a huge difference.
Enjoy Quality Time Together
A wonderful way to bond and connect with your foster teen is by simply spending time together. Talking isn’t the only way to communicate, and you might find that they open up with you more if you do the things they enjoy together.
Whether it’s bonding over cooking a family meal, going on walks together, making a regular date to go to the cinema, or having a kickabout in the park, being close to you can provide them with the stability they need to open up when they feel ready. Ask them about their interests and hobbies and show genuine interest in them. You could even ask if you can join them to show that you care about what they’re passionate about.
Keep things open, light, and positive, and don’t pry them with questions. When they feel comfortable with you they will be more likely to open up, so just keep doing what you’re doing.
Respect Their Privacy
While it’s important to let your foster teen know you are there for them whenever they want to talk, they should also be entitled to their privacy.
Speak to them about establishing boundaries and how you respect their need for privacy and personal space when they need it while letting them know you are there for them. Of course, every house has its own rules and while they should be granted their privacy, if there are some things you feel you need to know; such as curfews, who they are seeing, or if they are dating, make sure these boundaries are laid out so they understand them.
Let them know that there are certain things you need to know to ensure their safety and explain the reasons behind them. Your teen is more likely to respect the rules on privacy if they understand they are in place for their safety and security.
Stability is a luxury that many foster teens have never experienced. Having a consistent and stable routine can create a sense of security, especially if your teenager experienced upheaval and trauma in the past.
Many teenagers in care have been abused or neglected by their own families, or their parents have been unable to keep them safe. By providing a stable, nurturing, and supportive home, you’ll be assuring them that you are there for them consistently, even during difficult times.
Teenagers, no matter how grown-up they feel, still need parenting. This is especially true with foster teens, as they have likely come from a challenging background.
However, they also need the right balance of discipline, support, and guidance, especially when it comes to decision-making. While they want to be taken seriously, they might find it tricky to own the responsibility of decision-making. So, involve them in choices, whether it’s about household rules or personal matters.
Encouraging autonomy and allowing them to make decisions can help their self-confidence and teach them the importance of consequences. These are vital life skills that can help them now and into adulthood.
We all need to feel praise in our lives, no matter how old we are, and your foster teen is no exception. To help build a meaningful connection, you should always acknowledge their milestones, so matter how small or significant.
Celebrating their achievements can help boost their self-esteem, give them a sense of accomplishment, and show them that you’re invested in them and their journey. You should always offer words of praise and encouragement to show you recognise your teen’s efforts and that you value how well they are doing. A little encouragement and praise really can go a long way.
Provide Emotional Support
It’s completely normal for teenagers to push boundaries (and your buttons), and this can make things complicated when parenting.
While teens are at the beginning stages of making decisions about things that have real consequences, and they might feel like they know everything, you need to remember they aren’t great at regulating their emotions yet.
Providing emotional support at a time when they might be frustrated or closed off is something you can do to show you’re there for them and that you understand.
At Fostering People, we understand that providing emotional support for your foster teen can sometimes be challenging. That’s why we’re here to support children in care, you, and your family. Our team of foster specialists and social workers are available 24/7 to help, whether it’s to answer tricky questions or just a friendly ear to listen to your concerns.
And our comprehensive and ongoing foster care training will provide you with everything you need to be the best foster carer you can be.
Make a Difference in a Teen’s Life with Fostering People
If you’re keen to take on the amazing challenge of fostering a teenager, helping to turn their life around, and giving them the positive and secure future they need, then we would love to hear from you.
Give our team a call today to have a chat about transferring foster care agencies, and together we can give teenagers in care the life they deserve.