Monday, August 16, 2021


 I've been asked for thoughts about fostering teenagers. I'm no expert, but it is a block around which I have been a good many times, and loved (almost) every minute. So here's a few random ones;

* Put up with the fact that they are teenagers. One good way of doing this is to go back over what you were like when you were a teenager. Try to remember the angst, the fears, the frustrations of being treated like an adult when it comes to things like paying full price for a bus ride but being treated like a child with things like being denied a driving licence or a bottle of beer, even though the state says you're old enough to join the army. 

* Don't pretend you understand them even if you do. The only thing a fostered teenager has complete ownership over is who they are, and they don't want you peeking into their soul, it's theirs. If this means acting ignorant of their favourite music and not knowing one Marvel superhero from another, so be it. PS; don't say their music is great either. They'll switch genres in a trice. You're not supposed to like it; stick to telling them how much you like Abba. 

*  There will always be something to worry about with them. We foster carers are lucky because unlike ordinary parents we have specialist advice to go to, namely our Social Worker. Don't ring them up for any old thing, but Blue Sky provides supervision sessions and they're the place to talk over any suspicions about drugs or romantic enterprises or eating concerns.

* Their room will be a mess. It's their mess. They won't mind you clearing away anything mouldy or hazardous, but they'll know to within an inch exactly where their three-day-old socks are; one is under the bed, the other is behind the wardrobe.

* They live their lives by a different clock to the rest of the world. Their day starts at 11.00am or later, and extends to 2.00am at night. It's not any form of defiance, it's to do with circadian rhythms or somesuch. It's a biological fact, as is the biological fact that they will make enough noise sometimes to wake you up. Get earplugs.

* They do not need to eat their vegetables. Their digestive system appears to be able to create all the neccessary vitamins out of a packet of Walkers salt and vinegar. Alternatively, GIVE them an apple, to keep as theirs. Most often, but not always, ownership of the apple means they no longer see it as a threat to their independent choice of food, and it becomes edible. Don't say "Here's an apple for you", instead put a small bowl of fruit in their room; an apple, a banana and an orange. They'll eat them except the orange. Oranges need peeling which is a faff. Also; by refusing the orange they remain in control (they think).

* They won't talk, unless you get them onto a subject they're comfortable with, one they'll know more than you about. They'll possibly know more about fleecing the benefit system, or the best tips for sofa surfing, or how to get off a charge of shoplifting. For many teenagers in care they witnessed at home these matters as representing the badge of adulthood, and they'll open up if they can sound like 'grown-ups'. And indeed, in these respects they are more grown-up than most adults.

*They'll never forget you. Even though they'll hardly say a sentimental thing to your face, many years later they'll  call at your door to say thanks, either metaphorically or literally.  One foster mum I know had this exact thing happen and still fills up when she tells people about it.


  1. Another trick I've found is if you want them to talk do a activity and ask a random open question.

    My teen girl isn't just an expert at one word answers, oftens its one letter "K", because "ok" is one letter too many. Any by text I'll just get an emoji reply - thumbs up or down...

    But she will will talk my ears off while we're walking the dog, or while I colour her hair whatever funky colour she wants it this week.

    I start with a "well what do you think about -controversial topic of the day- then?" (Donald Trump was a good one). She'd be off ranting and raving and I'd get a torrent of opinions and ideas. I'd have my eyes opened by her views of the world, I'd get to throw in a few words so she knows not all adults are closed minded "boomers".

    Bloody brilliant but if America ever stops being bonkers I don't know what we'll talk about!

  2. Brilliant tip. Walking th dog is great, as is a car ride (if they're allowed in the seat next to you). Fans of NLP - neuro linguistic programming - tell us it's to do with both parties facing th same way and goping in the same direction, plus being out of the house you're equal status.
    I suppose Boris could stand in as a poor man's Trump?