If you are the kind of person that thrives upon a challenge, then please read on. Fostering teenagers – especially those who have experienced repeated placement breakdowns, will be a sobering experience. But if you can succeed, it can; apart from being challenging, be incredibly rewarding.
Teenagers are frequently split up from their siblings – upsetting enough – and when combined with feelings of low self esteem, it is scarcely surprising that there is tension right from the word go. A survey conducted last year found that an incredible 1 in 20 young people were already on their tenth placement with a foster family. It is useful to have some real context in place: we tend to think of teenagers as young adults and become frustrated when their behaviour is bad. There is now plenty of evidence to suggest that adulthood; as we think of it, is not reached until the age of 25. So if we think of adolescence as having a much longer duration, we will find it easier to recalibrate our responses when dealing with a brooding and resentful teenager. The field of Neuroscience has made tremendous advances providing evidence that brain development continues well into a young person’s twenties. It is much more realistic to think now of there being three stages of adolescence – early adolescence from 12 – 14 years, middle adolescence from 15 – 17 years and late adolescence from 18 years up to 25. Cognitive development has also been shown by studies into neuroscience, to indicate emotional maturity, self image and judgement will be affected until the brain’s prefrontal cortex has fully developed. But knowledge is power after all. Such research means that a different set of strategies is likely to be more effective when it comes to fostering teenagers.
First and foremost, it is vital to demonstrate that you care. So many teenagers arrive into care having had the most turbulent experiences that would be a test for most adults. They may never have known what most of us would accept as normal family life. One of the best ways of demonstrating a caring attitude is simply to listen. It may be the first time in their life that a teenager feels they have actually been listened to. Maintaining a calm and respectful manner will make them feel; again, perhaps for the first time, that they are in a stable situation. Setting ground rules is also an important and effective way of creating a sense of stability and security. It’s important not to set dozens of rules: it’s better to start with a few that are sensible and agreed such as what is a reasonable bedtime. One of the most important points to remember when fostering teenagers is that you will be the role model for the young person in your care. This is perhaps the most significant element to the relationship you will have. If you are an effective role model, this can have a positive effect across a whole series of issues that could otherwise be problematic. It sounds simple, but consistently demonstrating that you really do care is a key way to build a strong relationship. And fostering teenagers means coping with all the mood swings that can be caused by feelings of insecurity as well as hormones; this often means that teenagers can become oversensitive about all manner of things. Caring about how they feel and demonstrating empathy – remaining calm whilst they are often on a roller coaster of emotions – will create a bond.
Visit http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/family-health/Pages/coping-with-your-teenager.aspx for more information.
There is currently a shortage of foster families in the UK – particularly for families interested in fostering teenagers. Helping a young person toward making a success of their lives and reaching their full potential can bring great satisfaction. For this reason, we will be taking a more in-depth look in a forthcoming blog article, at the dynamics and challenges of fostering teenagers.
Fostering children: our ‘Rainbow Rewards’ are there to be claimed
Now is the time to seriously consider fostering teenagers? Rainbow is a London fostering agency offering high quality fostering services. But if you make a referral, we will pay you £500 with the money being paid over as soon as that person has been approved and received their first foster child. Please remember also that any existing foster carer considering transferring to Rainbow Fostering services will be in line to receive a generous bonus. This will be £2000 once approved, for carers who have children already placed with them on a long-term basis, and then £500 for any foster carers who do not have children placed with them. As an independent fostering agency, we intend our Rainbow Rewards to be a real incentive: call our recruitment team today on 020 8427 3355 to find out more.
And the good news at the end of this particular rainbow…we have more than quadrupled our number of Twitter followers in only a few weeks. So thanks to all who are now following Rainbow Fostering.