Being a teen parent is a challenge in itself, more so if you are bringing in a teenager as a foster child. Younger children need a great deal of love and care while teenaged ones come in with different expectations. The problems can be even greater if the child comes from a troubled background or has some behavioral issues. Hence, as a foster parent, you need to be prepared to cope with these challenges and impediments.
It is important to realize that you may need to invest extra effort as a carer but the rewards are great because you may be able to build a lasting bond with the teen. This will be a learning experience that you will probably remember for a lifetime. Here are some tips that can help you to breeze through it.
- Start with an Open Mind
You may have been a foster parent more than once, but things will be very different if this is the first time with a teenaged child. The best approach, therefore, is to enter with an open mind and without any expectations and notions. A teenager already lives in his or her own world, more so if they come from a troubled family or has a traumatic history. You may have to deal with foul language and offensive behavior. Being prepared for the worst is something that makes things easier to deal with. It is best to have a strategy for coping with negative situations before bringing the child home.
- Be Patient and Compassionate
Successfully fostering a teen is all about patience and compassion and these are the virtues that you need to cultivate within yourself. A teen parent would probably know the significance of these qualities because it is not easy to form a connection with them. Rather than bringing in a youngster with a problem-focused approach, try looking into their heart. Be empathic and realize that they might have suffered from countless problems during the past. Treat them with compassion and be patient even if they exhibit negative behavior because there could be a reason behind it.
- Have Clear Rules and Boundaries in Place
While you need to be compassionate and loving, there is no substitute for firmness. It is important for a foster parent to establish clear rules and boundaries right from the day the child joins the family. Have an open conversation with the child to convey these guidelines. Also, ask them if they have any doubts or concerns regarding these rules. While having boundaries in place and ensuring adherence is important, you should still allow them an optimal time to get adjusted to the new environment.
- Give Them the Space They Need
The biggest challenge related to parenting a teen, whether your biological or foster child, is that they need space. A teen zone is a place that they usually reserve for themselves and close friends. As a parent, you should avoid invading into this space and give them all the privacy they need. This is all the more important if the teen has just joined your family because he or she will not have an immediate connection with you. Maintaining a comfortable distance is the best strategy to win their trust and avoid confrontation. Give them chance to settle in and gradually close the gap as the child bonds with you and the family.
- Maintain Your Confidence Throughout
Since there will be more than one issue when you foster a teenaged child, feeling discouraged is normal. However, you should learn to take one day at a time and maintain your confidence throughout the parenting journey. Have a good support system by keeping your spouse, children and friends involved. Seek help and counseling from social workers and the fostering agency when you need to. Talking to fellow parents facing similar challenges also helps you to cope with the stress. Self-care is equally important to ward off the pressure.
Fostering a teen is a big responsibility that requires a great deal of maturity, experience, and patience. Take this responsibility only if you feel that you are capable of handling the challenges; if you have been a foster carer for some time, you will be in a better position to understand the mindset of children and the challenges that typically come as a part of the journey. Finally, remember that children are children, even if they grow up. Teens need extra love and empathy but the effort is fully worthwhile because the bonding with them is always precious.