Fostering children of any age is an incredibly rewarding experience, but there’s something truly special about teenagers. You’ll be welcoming a child into your home at a time of rapid psychological and physical change in their lives, making fostering teens challenging yet extremely fulfilling. Fostering teenagers comes with some amazing benefits and opportunities, some of which we’ve listed below.
A second chance at parenting
Like becoming a grandparent, fostering teenagers can showcase a completely different side of parenting. While there’s no perfect way to raise a teenager, hindsight is often 20/20 when it comes to parenting. Fostering teens gives you the chance to learn from your experiences and use your insight to become the best carer you can be, second time around.
Offer genuine help and guidance
The teenage years are incredibly formative, and many children rely on the guidance and support of adults during this time. Fostering teens is a genuine opportunity to have a positive impact on a child’s life when it’s needed most.
There’s no denying showering babies and toddlers in love and affection is an absolute joy. But nothing is more rewarding than helping a teenage choose their GCSE subjects, edit their CV for their first job or write a university application for their next step in life.
While raising biological children is incredibly rewarding, welcoming foster teens into your home is a unique chance to learn and grow as an adult. Many come from completely different backgrounds, with most children having more life experience than the average teen.
Where fostering younger children requires leadership and authority, fostering teens calls for a more collaborative approach, with plenty of opportunities to learn from your new family members along the way.
Immerse yourself in another culture
Leading on from the last point, many foster children come from different countries and cultures, making fostering an incredible opportunity to connect with people from alternative walks of life. You’ll have a chance to learn about new languages, cultures and traditions, while immersing your foster child in your own family life.
Even a foster teen from Northern England can bring a completely different perspective to a home in Cornwall, with you teaching them about your local community while simultaneously learning about their previous experiences.
Observe positive changes
Teenagers are unique in that they can learn and adapt at an amazing pace. Thanks to fully formed personalities and vocabularies by this age, it’s possible to see positive changes in your foster teenagers as they adapt to their new lives.
For instance, they may develop their communication skills or learn to express themselves in new ways as they become more confident. This can be immensely rewarding for foster parents looking to make a genuine difference.
School drop-offs, nappy changes and 3am bottle feedings become a thing of the past when fostering teenagers. Older children are far more independent than their younger counterparts which makes fostering teenagers a great option for busy households, where you’d rather not be up at all hours.
With independence comes responsibility. Unlike young children, teenagers are able to help with everyday chores. From prepping school lunches to doing laundry, you can teach foster teens valuable life skills while getting a helping hand around the house.
Enjoy adult-friendly activities
If you can’t stand the thought of another trip to a toddler-filled soft play area or you’ve had quite enough of watching Peppa Pig, it could be time to start considering fostering a teenager instead.
Movie nights loaded with pizza and popcorn, fun days out at music festivals or theme parks and long bike rides in the countryside are just some of the adult-friendly activities you can enjoy when fostering teens.
Make a lifelong friend
Teenagers are on the verge of adulthood and when you welcome them into your home, you’re not only gaining a child but also a friend. While setting boundaries is important, fostering teenagers can be a wonderful opportunity to spark a new (potentially lifelong) friendship.
With the right approach you can play the role of not just a parent but a confidant. Offering your foster teen genuine love and support will encourage them to see you as a friend and ally – someone they can share their hopes, fears and dreams with.
Top tips for fostering teenagers
While the experience of fostering a teen can be amazingly rewarding, there are always learning curves to navigate. To help prepare you as much as possible for your new family member, we’ve put together some tips for fostering teenagers.
Listening is one of the best ways to connect with any foster child and gain insight into their unique needs. Chances are the teen hasn’t had anyone to genuinely listen to their concerns in a while, making it all the more important to make them feel heard.
Don’t compare with your biological children
If you’re an experienced parent, it can be tempting to compare your foster children with your biological children. This can quickly become frustrating and set you up for disappointment. Remember, your foster teenager is unique and special in their own way and it’s highly unlikely they will follow the same path, or even exhibit the same traits, as your biological child.
Unlike younger foster children, most teens will have already developed boundaries regarding privacy and personal space. Simple things like knocking on the bedroom door before entering, can make an enormous difference when it comes to building mutual respect between yourself and the teenager in your care.
Empower them with responsibility
Foster teenagers can often feel as though they have very little control over their lives, especially if they’re moved around a lot. Even the smallest gestures, like giving them responsibility, can have a hugely positive impact on a teenager’s sense of self-worth and independence.
Be careful with criticism
While it can be easy to criticise teenagers for poor decisions or bad behaviour, it’s important to remember foster children can be especially sensitive when it comes to reproach. Even when you’re not expressing disapproval, they may still see and feel criticised. For this reason, it’s best to take a calm approach, staying as tactful and supportive as possible.
Ready to change a teenager’s life?
At Olive Branch Fostering we’re dedicated to matching teens in need with loving and supportive foster families. To find out more about whether you’re a good fit, get in touch with the team today on at [email protected] for advice.