Monday, May 2, 2016

Building Connection With Teens!

Building Connection With Teens

Building relationships with a teenagers is an incredible experience, yet many adults are hesitant to engage with teens out of a fear of feeling unequipped or being rejected by them. Although teenagers have a way of bringing out our insecurities, it’s important to remember this is a direct result of their heightened insecurity and process of searching for their own identity.
Naturally teens begin to pull away from parental figures, seek close relationships with peers, and wrestle with individual identity.  Therefore, for many kids from foster care, struggles with parental attachment can intensify regardless of when a child entered the foster care system or was adopted. As a support team member, you have the opportunity to provide mentoring and build a life-changing relationship with a teen. Your life will undoubtedly be touched in ways you never expected as well!

What to Know About Mentoring a Teen

  • Mentoring can be informal. It could be as simple as getting together a few times a month to “hang out” or can be more formal with structured activities upon which you and the teen agree.
  • Own who you are instead of trying to be “cool.” Teens appreciate authenticity and often it’s a welcome change of pace to what they experience with their peers. Be yourself and be honest with who you are in order to build trust and respect.
  • Have fun and use humor when appropriate. When you’re able to laugh and enjoy the world around you, it will help teens to lower their guard. Avoid teasing them or using sarcasm until you know the teen well enough to determine whether or not this will be confusing or hurtful.
  • Communicate with them on their terms.  Sometimes teens are able to be more open and honest when they are texting you a message rather than having a face to face or phone conversation. Activities such as driving, walking, bowling, and playing video games allow the teenager to avoid eye contact and feelings of vulnerability.
  • Roll with it. Teenagers may tell you things that they know will make you uncomfortable just to see how you react. When this happens, it’s best to remain calm and as neutral as possible in order to build trust and confidence.
  •  Know and discuss what information can be kept confidential. Establish boundaries so teens know which information must be shared with their foster or adoptive parents and what will be held in confidence. If teenagers report self-harm, substance use, or sexual activity, it’s best to encourage them to talk to their parents, particularly if you have concerns about their safety. Let them know if you will need to share that information with another adult to attempt to preserve their trust.

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