Sometimes, a child can seem well-adjusted or happy. Then, one day, “Poof!”. We look up one morning to a full-grown adult scarfing down pancakes. Just at about that time is when they are experiencing things that most adults would have a hard time with. From dating to drugs, that little girl/boy that had booboo’s doesn’t even speak more than a few forced words a day to you. It’s devastating, but it’s also common for a teenager, and even more common for a teen who has had past trauma.
Trauma May Begin to Cause Drama
Just when you thought the wounds were healed or forgotten, something or someone comes along and the inevitable happens. Maybe a biological parent is reaching out, maybe the abuse the child suffered is causing them to withdraw, or maybe the kid is just plain angry at the cards they were dealt. Don’t take this personally. You may have had the child since they were just a baby, or maybe you began to foster them in the later years. Either way, it’s up to you as the parent or guardian to know how to handle these trying times.
Hormones + Trauma = Trouble
A teenager is a walking ball of fluctuating hormones and that means that they are like a volcano waiting to erupt. Some, refusing to seem vulnerable or weak, try to hide the tears or anger. Then, there are the ones that shout about their misery. Som sweetly lay their head in your lap and cry. Now, not every child falls into one of these 3 categories, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to personalities and handling trauma. So, being that you are the caregiver, just remind them gently that you are more than just the person they live with. Let them know that you are there for them if they want to talk.
When you are in the car, turn off the music and ask them how they are. It’s okay for you to let them know that you have noticed a change in them. They may not like to hear it, but they may need to get off what’s been on their mind. The worst thing that could happen is they put on a tough facade, or say they don’t want to talk about it. At least they know that you care enough to notice and that you see them. Whatever you do, don’t let their attitude or behavior make you react in anger. If they disrespect you, correct them sternly. Do not let them see you flustered. It brings unnecessary guilt due to the fact that you too are now upset, and they may even fear that you will abandon them.
Trauma Responds to Therapy
Nobody WANTS to go to therapy and relive what they have been through, especially a moody and/or emotional teenager. In their heads, they don’t usually think it can help to talk about something that caused them so much pain. Also, you being the caregiver can make you the last person they want to talk to. They may be scared that it will make you feel bad to hear that they miss their biological parents. Indeed, there are so many dynamics that go into fostering, it’s impossible to guess why they can’t or won’t talk to you. Once they do, however, begin the process of rehashing old wounds, you should see a change. Eventually, life will return to a new normal and they will be genuinely happy again.
There is no way to prevent all of life’s circumstances, but there is a way to teach them to protect themselves from becoming hurt and bitter again or feeling unlovable.
Pain Goes Away, but the Scars Remain
It is unlikely that your teenager will never feel that way again. In fact, depression and anger cause a psychological battle they may have forever. It’s up to you if you want to seek medication as well as therapy. So, it is wise to seek out all options and make a decision that is best for him/her. Don’t allow your personal preferences of medicine or labels to become the “rule”. If the child is suicidal, self-harming, or harming others, it may be time to look at different treatments. Let them feel like they have a right to an opinion about their mental and emotional health. Control of what happens to their own body is something they may need to feel for once.
You are doing the best you can. Don’t begin to blame yourself for their pain. You are in their life now to protect and love them. You have stepped into some impossible shoes to fill and somehow made it this far. Be proud of the person that you are! With lots of understanding, hopefully, one day you will hear those tear-jerking words: “Thank you, and I love you”. As a foster parent, we want to make a positive difference in their lives.
For more information on foster care issues or if you are interested in becoming a Foster parent please contact us!