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a ministry of America World Adoption
“…taking hold of the hope set before us…” Hebrews 6:18
Building Connections with Teens
Whether your adopted child came to you as a teenager already, or will be a teen soon, it is important to approach this stage of life with thoughtfulness and intentionality. As taught in Trust Based Relational Parenting® principles, “connection” is key to a strong healing relationship; but, how do you “connect” with a teenager? The traditional bonding activities one might imagine such as rocking, holding, or feeding, are not necessarily easy or advisable with teens. So what can you do?
One of the first things you should do as you try to connect with ANY child is know yourself. How are you feeling mentally and physically at this moment? How easily are your “buttons pressed?” How open is your heart and mind to this kid at this time? Kids, especially teens, can pick up on your mood and attitude. If you are feeling angry, irritable, or stressed, it is vital that you find a way to care for yourself, to get yourself to a better place emotionally, so you have what it takes to effectively connect with a teenager.
Next, make sure you are creating an environment where the child feels secure. For teens, that means predictable routines, rules, and expectations. Equally important is for you to maintain an awareness of the teen’s potential stressors and their favorite coping skills. These tasks may seem overwhelming because adopted teens, like all teens, have the potential to be unpredictable and moody based on hormonal changes, social challenges, and the normal developmental tasks they are facing in identity development and separation from parents. However, as the adults in the relationship, it is our job to look past the situational issues, and see the “true child’ with compassion and understanding, making sure she feels safe and understood and “on solid ground” with us.
Lastly, as with small children, spend time observing, attuning, and engaging with them. Watch for what they are interested in. Learn about those things and join them in those activities (as long as they are relatively healthy!). This may mean moving out of your comfort zone to learn a video game or listen to some weird music, but the relationship dividends that you are likely to earn are outstanding as your teen sees that you are truly interested in who they are. Also, get in those healthy physical touches where you can. Teens, like little ones, need healthy physical touch for many reasons, but you may have to be creative if affection does not come easily for your or your teen. High-fives, massages, nail painting, hair styling, quick pats on the back, horse-play, or just sitting next to each other to watch a movie are examples of how create opportunities for healthy touch.
We hope this tidbit of information is helpful for you! For more help aimed at your specific situation, or any other adoption related needs, feel free to reach out to us at ACT@awaa.org!
ACT (Adoption Coaching and Training) is a ministry of America World Adoption designed to support families through training, support groups, and individualized coaching. Explore ACT services on our website, and reach out to us today for a free consultation to make a plan to meet your needs.