Setting boundaries with kids’ devices is one of the hardest things to navigate – it’s the only part of their world that feels like their own.
For weeks, I’d had a sneaking suspicion something was up with our foster daughter, Katie*. She seemed distracted and was spending more time in her room, which isn’t unusual for a 13-year-old but I was beginning to worry she was retreating from us. She was hanging out in the kitchen less, seemed quieter at dinner, and went to her bedroom every night after we’d eaten rather than staying to watch TV.
I decided to watch and wait. Our other foster daughter has been living with us for nearly three years, but Katie has only been with us six months so I’m still getting to know her emotional rhythms. I didn’t want to jump the gun. Any parent knows trust is everything – lose it and you risk them pulling away from you further. But when you are trying to protect a young teenager who isn’t your own, it’s arguably even more important to go gently. If you’re going to keep them safe, you need them to feel they can tell you when they’re struggling.
Over the 10 years my husband and I have been fostering, I’ve learned there is no real secret to parenting foster teenagers. Every one is different – some will push your boundaries to their very limits, others relish the safety your home can provide. But I now know the hard bits are just as rewarding as the good bits.
Katie is a naturally quiet, anxious girl. She’s young for her age and has autism which can make her more vulnerable, but until recently she’d always been open with us and happy to spend time with the family. Two weeks ago, I decided I was going to have to intervene. Something was clearly off.
“Right love,” I said, one evening after school. “I’m sorry about this but I’m going to need you to give me your phone.”
READ ON BELOW…To save our foster daughter, we took her phone away