Questions and Decisions

All children who are fostered or have been adopted have experienced trauma, whatever the details of their story, and trauma has a profound impact on brain development.

I have some embarrassing photos from my adolescence where I’m sporting some bold fashion choices; from floor length velvet skirts and black nails to oversized multi-coloured headbands! All of it was part of my exploration of identity, a vital, exciting and sometimes overwhelming part of adolescence as I wrestled with questions of ‘who am I', and ‘where do I fit’?

For care-experienced young people these questions come with added layers of complexity and pain. Some will know much of their life story, but its relevance and significance, and any associated pain, may be magnified during this time. Sometimes they will be able to articulate this to trusted adults who will help them navigate their story, but sadly, often these feelings will be communicated through challenging behaviour, increasing distances or aggression, leaving everyone unsure how to bring about change. While we all ask big questions during this time, and in fact, getting answers is vital for us to journey into our adult lives, for care experienced children these questions may come with more confusion, anger and shame.

All children who are fostered or have been adopted have experienced trauma, whatever the details of their story, and trauma has a profound impact on brain development. This manifests differently in every child, but some have likened it to having faulty wiring in the brain and this impacts, to a greater or lesser extent, every part of life.

For example, many teenagers experience FOMO (fear of missing out) heightened by the pressure of being constantly connected to social media and seeing others living their ‘best’ lives. If we’re honest, this is something that many of us are learning to navigate too. When you add to this ‘normal’ adolescent experience the pervasive feeling of rejection that many care-experienced children live with, it can become crippling.

Adolescence is characterised by children pushing boundaries as they pursue independence, including risk-taking behaviour. When this is done from a secure base with trusted adults, even when there is conflict, the relationship can usually be relatively quickly repaired without too much damage to either adult or child.

When a child has experienced trauma, they can grow up with a pervasive sense of shame, which says not just, ‘what I did was wrong’, but ‘I am wrong’. Every teenager will make some poor decisions during adolescence (and beyond!), but shame can trigger challenging behaviours and unhealthy coping mechanisms which can be difficult to get past for both adults and children alike.

Do you remember being a teenager and what it felt like? The brilliant bits, but also ALL the overwhelming parts too? Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, drives connection. When we practice empathetic responses, particularly when everything in us feels the opposite, we prioritise relational connection that repairs and rebuilds trust. Over time, this can change and strengthen brain architecture.

Author:
Claire for Home for Good


Date published:
June 2021


Tags:
Articles


Share:


More on teenagers

Understanding adolescence: What’s happening in the brain?

Understanding adolescence: What’s happening in the brain?

The first 1000 days of a child’s life are often heralded as being the most significant, in no small part because of what is happening in the brain.

Read more
Understanding Adolescence: Things that make a difference

Understanding Adolescence: Things that make a difference

It is not an exaggeration to say that great wraparound care for families can be life changing

Read more
Our heart for teenagers

Our heart for teenagers

Home for Good is passionate about finding a home for every child, at every age.

Read more

You might also be interested in

A passion for welcome

Stories

A passion for welcome

An adoptive parent shares their story of welcome and hospitality

Read more
Introducing Seth Pinnock

Stories

Introducing Seth Pinnock

There are some things that might not make sense to us in the here and now, but when we look back in retrospect it becomes clear that they were part of something bigger.

Read more
Stability Part 2: The Role of the System

Articles

Stability Part 2: The Role of the System

Our desire is for children and young people not just to experience initial stability, but ongoing security, safety and love with relationships that remain consistent and ongoing in their lives.

Read more
Stability Part 1: The role the Church can play

Articles

Stability Part 1: The role the Church can play

This month, we’re focusing on the theme of stability. Our desire is for children and young people not just to experience initial stability, but ongoing security, safety and love with relationships that remain consistent and ongoing in their lives.

Read more

Connect locally

I would like to find out what is
going on in my area

Connect Locally

Keep up-to-date

I would like to stay up-to-date with Home for Good's news and how
I can give, pray and get involved to help vulnerable children.

Home for Good will never pass on your details to third parties for marketing purposes and you can unsubscribe from our communications at anytime by emailing info@homeforgood.co.uk.

reCAPTCHA helps prevent automated form spam.