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Session 14/15

Page 4/7 Topic B: From control to contracting

Topic B: From control to contracting

As a caregiver working with teenagers, a good balance between being containing (being tolerant, kind, understanding, not letting yourself be provoked by difficult teenage behaviour) and being firm is required. You should make it very clear – first to yourself and then to the teenager – what aspects/rules/demands you are willing to negotiate, and what demands/rules that are indisputable. This is important to know when your limits are tested. Teenagers naturally test your limits, so to yourself they should be clear. A useful rule is: always talk to the adult side of the teenager – no matter how childish you think he or she behaves. The roles “we are your parents and you are the child” dissolve, so it is necessary to find other ways of cooperating. It can be a good idea to use “contracting“.

For example:
“You are growing up and you have become more competent. That means that you will have some duties in the house in exchange for certain rights and some pocket money. We want to make a contract with you stating what you have to do every day, how long you can stay out with friends, and what you get from us such as areas where we will let you decide yourself without arguing about your decisions. In that contract we should also talk about what we as foster parents should do if you or we do not fulfill what we agreed on. So let’s start writing it together – do you have any suggestions for what we need to agree on – what is important for you?”

The importance and attitudes of the peer group (friends and classmates) will often become more important than what you think as foster parents. This should generally be accepted, so your “job” as a foster parent should be to listen and talk openly about the young person’s challenges in relations with peers. You don’t always have to suggest solutions; the dialogue in itself and an accepting attitude can be of great help. One young person remembered his foster father like this: “I could always talk to him about anything, and he just listened to me“.