The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Teacher Lesson Return to "Living on Your Own"
Living on Your Own
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Playing House—Art Activity

Provide construction paper, old magazines, markers, scissors, and tape for everyone in the group. Before the group arrives, draw a big empty room on the board or chart paper, with a few windows.

Planning and Decorating: 15 minutes
Tell the group they’re going to decorate this living room together, and they’ll have to cooperate the way they would if they lived with roommates or family members. Go in a circle and have each person name one item for the room that they will draw or collage. That could include furniture, art, plants, a pet, TV, stereo, computer, curtains—whatever objects make the room feel like a place they’d like to be (not a person). If, toward the end, people can’t think of anything, let the others help them.

Once everyone has their assignments, have them draw or collage their item and tape it up in the room.

Read and Discuss the Story: 15 minutes
Have them read “Living on Your Own.” Go around the room, taking turns reading aloud. Let group members pass if they want to. Afterwards, ask the group what they think of the advice given in the story. What stands out to them? What sounds hard about what the therapists are suggesting? Do they have other advice they’d give a friend who is living on her own for the first time?

Inhabit the Room: 10 minutes
Have everyone go around and say one thing they would do in the room to make it feel like home (for example, inviting a friend over for dinner, or finding a spot to draw or write or listen to music). They can take suggestions from the story, or share a new thing they like doing. Point out that by doing this, they’re sharing tips with each other on how to enjoy living on their own.

Looking Further Into the Future

Tell the teens that their first apartment is just that—their first. They will learn and grow as they grow older, and we’re going to read a story about that.

Before reading, ask the students to close their eyes and breathe deeply. When everyone is quiet, ask them to imagine where they will be in 10 years. Who will they be living with? How will they afford it? How will they get emotional support? Will it be a place of their own, or with roommates?

After the teens have silently imagined the far future, tell them you’re going to read a story by a young women who is now 28 and has found a place that suits her.

Have the group read “Not Just a Group House, A Way of Life” by Natasha Santos. Go around the room, taking turns. Let youth pass if they want. At appropriate points, stop to ask teens what they like or don’t like about Natasha’s situation. Ask what skills they think she needs to make this place work.
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