We all want to build that special relationship with our kids where whether they're celebrating, deliberating, or disappointed, they come to us to share in that experience. We want that trust with our kids, but trust doesn't build on its own. When parents want to build trust intentionally, it can be hard to know where to start. Consider:
When have you built trust with your kids and how?, and 2) if you have not, what you can do to change that.
What Makes You Trust People or, Not?
Did you go to your parents when you needed to talk? Try to think back to the concerns and stresses you had when you were young. If you did go to your parents, why? When? If you didn't go to your parents for advice or to talk things through, why was that? Have you created similar barriers with your child? How might you start to break those barriers down?
Acknowledgement Doesn't Equal Permissiveness
Teens and tweens are in a stage of pushing boundaries, learning about their own preferences, choice-making, and they're also experiencing strong emotions they may not be prepared to handle yet. The key is to impose appropriate consequences if your teen makes a bad or unsafe decision - and talk through the decision-making process. Sometimes the conversation is the appropriate consequence. Talk about alternatives or what healthy future choices might look like. Remember, we build trust through discussion, and it isn't a discussion if you don't equally listen and give a chance for response, disagreement, and compromise with your child.
What Does It Mean to Be A Trustworthy Person?
Another way of examining the type of environment you have created with your child is to analyze first on your own, what makes a person trustworthy? Ask your child what they consider makes someone trustworthy. Consider this list of characteristics:
a good listener
Are you that person for your child? Point out the things you do intentionally to show them that they can trust you. If you identify areas in which you need to grow to be a more trustworthy person for your child, talk about that. For example, if you haven't been a good listener in the past, apologize and explain that you are working to be a better listener because you know that is important to a healthy relationship.
How You React Matters
As parents, we each have unique personalities that react to situations differently. Part of building trust with your child is identifying how you are likely to respond in common situations, and finding ways to make sure that reaction is fair to your child. If you tend to react impulsively, give yourself a chance to pause and think through your response before committing to a stance on what your teen has brought up. If you tend to be quiet and struggle to contribute to conversations, practice modeling vulnerability, and openness. It can feel like a lot of pressure hearing that your reactions matter - but the reality is, you won't always react perfectly. What you can always do is apologize if you react in a way that hurts your child, and be vulnerable about how you plan to work on that response.
You're Paving The Way for Future Healthy Relationships
Building trust with your children isn't just about you and them. When you model openness, pausing, active listening, apologizing, fairness, and trust, you're teaching your child what to look for in future friends and partners.
Trust is a two-way street, so as you examine your current relationship with your child and think about plans to improve, involve them in that process. Sometimes just being open to ideas and sharing is enough. For example, you could say something like, "I read a blog today about building trust and how important it is to build with your kids. It gave me some ideas of ways we could communicate better and trust each other more."
What are you currently doing to build trust? What’s working? What’s not?