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Have you ever felt frustrated because you thought your feelings were not considered about a decision being made? Have you ever felt frustrated towards a caregiver because they made an assumption on how you may feel about something? Having the ability to make decisions in our lives is an important part of our well-being. When our ability to choose is overlooked, it can impact how we feel and our relationships with caregivers. In this article, I talk about the importance of choice and the role it plays in our lives. I provide suggestions on how you can empower and advocate for yourself to those caring for you.

From the time we are young, we are taught about choice; making good choices versus bad choices, understanding right from wrong. Yet, as we grow older, the importance of being able to choose begins to play a different role in our lives; specifically having the power to choose.

When we feel like we no longer have the power to choose, it can impact how we feel and impact our relationship with those caring for us.

Caregivers make a lot of decisions for those they take care of. Whether it be rules of the household, curfew or treatment plans. Sometimes, caregivers may mistakenly overlook the important fact that for teenagers in foster care, being able to make certain decisions is important to how you feel. Because, for so many, the ability to choose their circumstance was made by others.

It is important to remember that those caring for you, most often make decisions with your best interests in mind. But, it is also important for them to not make assumptions about how you may feel or your opinion on a matter. Being able to effectively explain this is important in developing trust and feeling supported by those that care for you.

Being able to explain to caregivers how important choice is in the decisions in your life, is an important skill that can benefit you into adulthood. A good place to start is to have a conversation with caregivers and provide them clear examples on ways they can best support your feelings and provide you with choice. The following are some examples to discuss with your caregivers.

Explain to them that you want to feel supported so you can understand the issues in your life. And, you would like to have a say in decisions to be made. Tell them to ask you what you think, ask you what you want and how you feel about things. Explain to them that you are figuring out many things as you go and sometimes you may not know the best direction. So, you will need guidance in your life, from people you trust. Remind them to not talk above you or use words you don’t understand. Ask them to not discuss the issues in your life in front of you, without acknowledging you and your thoughts.

Explain to them that you have many decisions in your life that are being made by others; some you may not be clear about and some you may not agree with. Help you to understand treatment plans, care plans or diagnoses. Being clear and supportive when explaining symptoms, medications and side effects is very important. Also, if there is a decision you are not comfortable with, remind them to work with you to find an alternative that you feel good about. Remind them to take time to understand the why’s in your behavior. What are the reasons behind your thoughts or behaviors? These discussions may help them better understand your personal background and perspectives.

Remind caregivers that in taking the time to ask you how you feel or what you think about a decision to be made, it will build trust and strengthen your relationship. Also, if your primary caregiver is not responsive to these discussions, ask another trusted adult in your life to help you address these matters with your caregiver.

Developing the ability to advocate for yourself and express how you feel is a skill that can benefit you for life. It is also a skill that may take time to develop. Don’t give up on yourself or your caregiver, if the outcome is not what you hoped for on the first try. Be mindful that you may not be able to have the final say in all matters, but having your opinion and feelings be considered will have a positive impact. Remember that you are your own best advocate, your experience matters, as do your feelings. Choosing to develop this skill now will serve you well in the future.