You’ve heard that there is a great need for families for teens in foster care, and you want to do something to help. But you’ve spent time with teenagers, and you were once one yourself! So, you’re aware that conversing with youngsters at this age can be difficult.
Connecting with Teens
Here are some suggestions for communicating with a young person.
1. Tap into your inner self.
This entails remaining steady, maintaining a consistent presence, and being available when needed, but not in their face all of the time. While this is sound advice for any adolescent, it is especially beneficial for those who have previously experienced a lack of consistent support.
Adolescents, by nature, aren’t always on board with our plans for making the most of family time, and they’re not always in the mood to talk. Fortunately, quality teen parenting can sometimes take the form of blending into the background like a potted plant.
Children find the presence of an adult soothing, and teenagers, like toddlers, may feel most at ease when their parents “balance active participation with detached availability,” according to research on parent-child attachment.
2. Pose open-ended inquiries.
This way, teens won’t be able to rely on one-word responses. The format of the inquiry itself provides them with the opportunity to completely express themselves. Be interested and curious, but don’t pry if you don’t want them to clam up. To demonstrate curiosity, frame inquiries with “I wonder…” After all, the last thing any adolescent wants is an adult interrogating them about their private lives.
3. Talk while still doing something else.
It could be driving, eating, playing a game, or engaging in another favorite activity. This allows the conversation to flow naturally and avoids the feeling of an interrogation. The activity can also make everyone feel more at ease, which will improve the quality of the conversations.
4. Allow them to be the expert.
Ask their opinion about something. Teens are far more likely to open up and talk to you about topics that are important to them, such as technology, music, and sports. Allowing them to direct the conversation by sharing their knowledge and experience can help them open up.
5. Don’t force them to talk if they don’t want to.
If you don’t get a response, simply say, “I’ll check back later”—and then do so. This demonstrates that you are truly listening to them and that you will be consistent and available for them, which is exactly what many foster children require from you.
Ready to Start?
Getting to know a teenager is a journey. Being thoughtful and considerate of their life experiences and needs when communicating with them is a great first step. At Kids First in Fort Worth, we’re here to help you be the best foster or adoptive parent. We can help with mentoring, support, and encouragement. Contact us for more information.