5 Things I Learned About Fostering Teenagers

Being 26 years old I don’t think many people would think that I would have insight on fostering teenagers. I didn’t think I would have any insight into raising children let alone teenagers for a long time but things don’t ever go as you plan. At 24 I became a kinship foster parent to my 2 brothers who were 14 and 15 at the time. I get many different reactions when people find out my 2 brothers live with me. Since they’ve been here I’ve had that aha moment that hopefully a lot of parents of teenagers feel. I finally got the reason for the rules and the questioning. It’s different when you’re in foster care though. My time on both sides of the tables has taught meĀ  some things about fostering teenagers.

raising teenagers

  • They are going to be sneaky. Yes this is naturally a teenage thing but it can be worse with foster kids. Many times kids are taught to be sneaky to survive the situation they are in. That behavior is then carried on with them as they grow up. Teenagers that are unnaturally sneaky do so when they don’t even have to be, to some extent they can’t help themselves. I try to put it in a rational matter to them. “I find everything out eventually so your going to get in trouble. If you do it your asking to get in trouble, don’t do it if you don’t want to get in trouble”.
  • You cannot feel sorry for them or let them feel sorry for themselves. It’s important to acknowledge the situation but they should use their past as a measuring stick. The harder you had it means you accomplished that much more when you make it. This is important because the world will not feel sorry for them. The bill collector doesn’t care what kind of childhood you had. You have to own it. As a foster kid you have to own it and realize you may have to work harder, so every dumb thing you do is only holding you back. That I know from experience.
  • This is the reality of the situation…the only thing I must do is give adequate clothing food and shelter. Many people think this sounds harsh but sometimes if the action warrants a reality check so be it. Foster kids that have come into your home, whether kin or not, are not your kids. My brothers have come to live with me because their home situation wasn’t good. They could be at some other foster home (yes the reality is they are not all good places) , but instead they are (or should) be in a safe, caring and respectful living situation. Things should not be taken for granted and sometimes you have to teach appreciation. Privileges are earned and with good behavior come more freedom and privileges. Sometimes you have to remind ungrateful teenagers how things could be, then remind them that they don’t have it that way. You’re just trying to help them through a situation but they have to make the process go smooth by following the rules.
  • Sometimes things you have to let things be a little tough for them so they can figure it out. It’s better they learn it under your wind then someone else’s. The lesson of networking is one of the biggest lessons that can be taught to assist them with their future. For example, let’s say their car breaks down or needs some work. They take it to the shop and it will be $500. Now what if they found the part they needed and know a person that works on cars to cut the cost? It’s not the point of getting the car fixed it’s about how you get it done. There will be situations that arise that they will need help. If they can’t fix it then they will need to figure out how to go about finding a way to get it fixed.
  • You have to set down with teenagers and make a plan for their future. Not too many teens are thinking about their future, putting a plan together and taking steps to go towards it. You have to set a move out date for them or it may not happen. There has to be a little sense of urgency or there may be none. It goes back to the realty of the situation. They may have to work a little harder because of their situation but hopefully they have some support and the fact is, it is possible.

Too often people make excuses because of their past. Often they’ve made decisions that have gotten themselves into the situation they are in. I tell my brothers that it’s unfortunate that so many of the decisions that you make between the ages of 15 til about 25 majorly affect the majority of your life. That’s why as parents, especially foster parents have to push and sometimes drag teenage foster kids in the right direction. They may hate you at times, but if you do your part and they do their part, one day they will look back and not only thank you but be thankful for you.

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One Response to 5 Things I Learned About Fostering Teenagers

  1. Shannon Robinson says:

    I am amazed by your insight and clarity. I’m so sorry for all you’ve gone through but you’ve come out the other side a wonderful human being. I used to be a CASA but now my husband and I are training to be a resource family. I am grateful to have your blog to read and re-read and I will refer back frequently to read your posts over and over. Your words are compelling and will stay with me. Your words are a gift for both foster children and parents.

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