You want to help because you’ve heard that there’s a huge need for families to adopt or foster teenagers who are in foster care. But you’ve spent time with teenagers before, and actually you too were one once, so you are very aware that conversing with this age group can be difficult.
The following seven suggestions are based on our experience working with foster children, but most of them are relevant to talking with any young person.
1. Balance active engagement with detached availability.
The greatest method to interact with teenagers is to be stable, always be there, and be available when you need to be, without constantly being in their face. While this is sound advice for all teenagers, it is especially beneficial for young people who may have previously experienced a lack of reliable support.
Adolescents, by their very nature, don’t always agree with our ideas for making the most of our family time, and they aren’t always in the mood to talk. There are times when good parenting of an adolescent sometimes requires merging into the background.
2. Be genuine with your foster or adopted teen!
Speak to them rather than at them. Be as genuine as you can. Teenagers are good at spotting phoniness.
3. Ask open-ended questions.
Teenagers won’t be able to rely just on one-word replies this way. Because of the question’s format, you may just have given them the freedom they need to properly express themselves. Show interest and curiosity, but watch out for prying, as they might close up. The last thing a youngster wants, after all, is an adult prying into their personal affairs.
4. Have a conversation while performing a task.
It may be eating dinner, driving in the car, playing a game, or engaging in another favorite pastime. The chat will feel less like an interrogation and the conversation will flow more naturally if everyone is more at ease.
5. Share a bit of information about yourself.
Most conversations are two-sided. Teenagers don’t like being questioned or given lectures. Give them a chance to get to know you better by allowing them to do so. Don’t, however, drone on and on.
It’s okay to express emotions, even negative ones. For instance, you might discuss a problem you had when you were an adolescent or a difficulty you overcame when you were their age. You may also consider how you truly felt during a shared experience, such as remorse over dropping something at the grocery store or resentment toward someone who cut you off in line.
6. Let them be the expert.
Ask their opinion on a matter. Teenagers are far more willing to open up to you and discuss subjects that are important to them, such as music, technology, and sports. Allowing them to lead the conversation by sharing their expertise and experience may help them open up.
7. Don’t force them to talk if they don’t want to.
Demonstrate that you truly pay attention to what they say and that you’ll be dependable and accessible for them, which is just what many foster children in your care actually need from you.
It takes time to get to know a teenager. Communicating with children in a way that is thoughtful and mindful of their needs and experiences in life is a terrific start. If you want to explore adoption or fostering, we are here for you. Or if you want help talking and connecting with your foster or adopted teen, we would love to help. Contact our Fort Worth, TX office today.