Caring for kids as they approach the teenage years can be tough at times, but you have a big role to play in guiding the child in your care through this important life stage. Through your behaviour and your conversations you can help your teen understand that they can and should have all the health and happiness in the world. Your love, patience and hard work will have benefits that last a lifetime.
As they approach adolescence, kids begin to question how their family and cultural background fit in with their own sense of self. Carers play a crucial role in promoting and maintaining the connections that support a child’s understanding of where they come from, who they are and who they want to be.
Talk up positive family traits
Help tweens feel good about themselves by pointing out the positives in their family. You could say: “Your mum has the most wonderful laugh!” or “I think you’ll be as tall as your dad one day”.
Celebrate the differences – and the similarities
Help make your tween feel proud of their unique qualities by talking in a positive way about what makes them different to you. Show an interest in their language, religion, culture and even their looks. But help them feel like part of your family, too, by talking about the things they have in common: maybe they like the same food or music, or have the same interests as others in your household.
Always be available to listen and advise. Be a shoulder to lean on or cry on. Don’t be judgmental.
Cultural connections are fundamental to the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Ask your caseworker about your child’s Cultural Case Plan and work together to meet those goals. Ask questions about your child’s language, stories and cultural practices. If they don’t know the answers, help them connect with people who can teach them more.
Find out about cultural clubs, events or activities that you and your child can get involved in. Reach out to the elders of your child’s cultural community. They can answer your questions and help guide you away from well-meaning mistakes. They can also be wonderful role models for your tween.
Acknowledge cultural milestones
Carers and caseworkers should make sure tweens have regular contact with people from their cultural community and that significant cultural and religious events and rituals are honoured.
Connect with big family moments
Tweens may want to feel connected to their birth family’s milestones. If it’s appropriate, caseworkers and carers can arrange for kids to be part of events such as birthdays, weddings and school graduations. Some cultures have rituals that should be honoured as a child grows up. Caseworkers and carers can work together to make sure those important moments are observed.
Help out with Life Story work
Life Story work lets your tween reflect on their past as well as what they’re doing now. Let your tween know you’d like to contribute. Offer to help gather information and collect things like photos and awards.
Make it permanent
If it’s appropriate, you can move to create permanency in the relationship by applying for guardianship or adoption of your tween. If you want to know more about these options, talk to your caseworker. Be aware that adoption is not usually an option for Aboriginal children.