Why won’t my teenager talk to me?

Dr John Coleman; Routledge 2014

Reviewed by Jane Vellacott, foster carer, July 2014


As a foster carer with three teenage placements, reading is a luxury normally reserved for holidays. So it was a real treat to find myself reading this helpful book and being drawn back to it in the tiny gaps available in a generally busy life.

In Part I Dr Coleman takes us through a parenting framework he calls STAGE: the Significance of parenting, Two-way communication, Authority, the Generation gap and Emotion. I found these sections clearly presented and insightful as well as helping me to reflect on many situations I’ve faced. Additionally, the brief information about brain development, sleep patterns and risk-taking was revealing. I also liked the analogy of ‘child alongside’ adult during the transition from childhood to adulthood, because we all know a teenager can be 14 going on 24 one moment but act ‘babyish’ the next. I shared some of these ideas with a youngster I foster because it helped him feel better about his own moods and self-image.

Part II covers aspects of a teenager’s world – health issues including sex, friends and peer group, the digital world and what happens when the family changes – as happens because of divorce or fostering. Although I thought I knew quite a lot about some of this I found I learned a lot. The last section on risk-taking and challenging behaviour was particularly helpful, because there is nearly always both in fostering.

Each section has lots of reflections from parents and teenagers which made the text easily readable and realistic. The summaries throughout were useful. I felt the book was equally supportive for those doing the parenting and those being parented – it didn’t ‘take sides’. And finally the conclusion which summarises how to use the STAGE framework, provides strategies and is heart-warmingly supportive.

In fact if you lack time, just the introduction and initial outline of STAGE plus the conclusion at the end of the book, provide a lot of food for thought. In the end, ‘looked after’ teenagers are just teenagers with different earlier experiences. But when you have time Dr Coleman, write the chapter on fostering teenagers too!

NOTE Jan 2017. The Rees Centre has now published a Teenagers In Foster Care Handbook for foster carers, written by John Coleman.


Book review

Áine Rose Kelly, doctoral student at the Rees Centre & care leaver reviews Young People Leaving Care. Supporting Pathways to Adulthood

Teenagers in Foster Care

Handbook for foster carers

Jan 2017