Taking care of foster children, or adopted children, isn't always easy. And in the case of teens that have been abused the healing process itself is a gargantuan task. But with tender, love and care parents can go a long way in helping their teen bloom as a person. According to child welfare workers 75% of children in foster care have been sexually abused at some point by an adult. Parents and caregivers are often left helpless not knowing what to do. However there are steps they can take to help the teen they're taking care of.
What you need to know
- Handle disciplining with the utmost care, since sexually abused children have very fragile self-esteem.
- Parents must ensure that they are not demeaning the child emotionally or physically at any point.
- Lay down the rules clearly and specify expectations from the teen clearly.
- Prepare for a long and uphill journey. Patience and flexibility are a must.
- Parents must control their tone, language and other body language when interacting with an abused kid.
- Initiate communication and try to build an emotional connection as soon as you can.
- Praise the child as much as possible and respect their choices and boundaries too.
To begin with, as soon as you realize the predicament and decide to go through with caring for the child, you need to have a good pediatrician give the child a thorough medical checkup. This will not only establish the extent of the abuse, but will also help identify any STDs or health issues that the teen might have. The next most important thing to do is arrange for the child to be seen by a therapist who specializes in treating children and youth who have been sexually abused. Such teens can not be treated by just about any therapist.
It takes a considerable amount of time for a teen to start trusting adoptive/foster parents. But that doesn't mean that it will never happen. Parents dealing with teens who have a history of sexual abuse have to be extremely patient and vigilent in their care. An important thing that needs to be considered before one takes on the gigantic responsibility of salvaging the life and future of a sexually abused child, is that it cannot be done alone. Parents will need the help, support and understanding of the entire family, and in some cases the community, to help the teen. If you have other children too, they need to play their part in making the new child in the family comfortable and understand and support their personal struggles. Same will be asked of your spouse or partner.