In this guest blog post, counselors and therapists at Alternative Family Services share suggestions for engaging teens. something to help. But you spent time in your teens, and in fact, you were once a teenager yourself! So you know that talking to children this age can be difficult. We wrote these seven tips based on our work with children in foster care, but much of it applies to communicating with any young person.1. Your inner plant channel. Using the “potted” style of communication with teens advocated by psychologist Lisa Damour means staying steady, consistently present, and there when you need it, but not always have to face them. While this is prudent advice for any teen, it is especially ideal for young adults who may have lacked consistent support in their past. ‘It’s not always planned to make the most of family time and they’re not always in the mood to chat. Fortunately, a teenager’s quality upbringing can sometimes take the form of a potted plant. She suggests that adolescents, like toddlers, may feel most comfortable when parents “balance positive interaction with a willingness to separate.”2. Ask open-ended questions. This way, teenagers can’t just rely on simple, one-word answers. The format of the question itself gives them the space they might need to express themselves clearly. Be interested and curious, but be careful not to pry or they might be amused. Consider framing the question with “I wonder…” to show curiosity. After all, the last thing any teen wants is for adults to ask them too many questions about their personal lives.3. Talk while participating in an activity. It could be driving, eating a meal, playing a game, or another favorite activity. This way the conversation can flow more naturally and not like an interrogation. This activity can also help people feel more comfortable, which in turn helps conversations move in a better direction. Read more: how to change pants into skirts.4. Be real! Talk to them, not to them. Be as authentic as possible. Teens know when you’re faking it. Talk to them like you would anyone else.5. Let them be the experts. Ask their advice about something. Teens are more likely to open up and talk to you about topics that interest them — like technology, music, and sports. Letting them guide the dialogue by sharing their knowledge and experiences can help them open up more.6. Briefly share something about yourself. Conversations are often two-sided. No teenager wants to be questioned or lectured. Give them a chance to get to know you better. However, don’t just fly the drone. If you’re starting to feel like the economics teacher Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, you’re doing it wrong. For example, you could talk about what you struggled with as a teenager or a challenge you overcame at their age. Or you can think about what you really felt during a shared experience, such as anger at someone who cut both of you in line or guilt over dropping an item at the door. groceries.7. If they don’t want to talk, don’t make them. If you don’t get a response, just say “I’ll check back later”—and then actually check back. This shows that you are really listening and that you will always be consistent and available for them, which is exactly what many foster children really need from you. Thinking about and taking into account their life experiences and needs when communicating with them is a great first step. Read more: how to make a temporary crown at home
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