How to Teach Teens About Trust

Why Trust Is a Key Part of Any Relationship, Not Just Child-Parent

Trust Teens Parents
Trusting your teen leads to a good relationship with them. Getty Images / Nicola Tree

Trust is defined as "the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone." As teens get older, they can push the trust barriers with parents for many reasons; sometimes without really thinking about it, but other times in a deliberate attempt to find the limits. It's crucial for parents to be very clear with teens that trust has to be earned, and once it's lost or damaged, it takes time to rebuild.

When Your Teen Pushes the Limit

You can trust that your teen knows right from wrong and trust that your teen will do the right thing most of the time, but know that when your teen pushes their limits or experiments within the world around them that they will make big mistakes. Part of this means betraying your trust in them to do the right things. But they don't always consider how engaging in behaviors like drinking and drugs affect their parents, or their parents' trust until it's too late. When bad behavior occurs, make sure that as part of their punishment, our teen knows he has to regain your trust, and that it won't be automatic.

Mistrust Versus Regaining Your Trust

Remind them that you expect them to do the right thing, and frame it as a matter of trust. For instance, you could say, "I'm trusting that you will have your room clean when I get home from work today." This sends your teen a clear message of what they need to do and when.

Try to avoid falling into the habit of mistrusting your teen based on past problems or issues with his older sibling or someone else close to them (or you). Others' bad behavior does not always predict bad behavior from your teen. Be fair and explain honestly any doubts you have about a new friend or new situation, so your teen understands your fears and concerns.

Trust is a Two-Way Street

This is an example of trust being a two-way street, not just a parent laying down the law without any explanation. In turn, your teen may work harder to prove you can trust them in these situations, when they realize that such behavior goes a long way toward trusting them in other areas. This also shows that your teen is maturing when they can see how one action or behavior affects future consequences.

Parents need to understand that trust is an essential part of their relationship with their teens and that their teenagers need their trust in order to grow. Without it, teens have a harder time building self-confidence, developing positive relationships and growing into a successful young adult. So, let your teen know that not only do you want to trust them but, they can trust you to be their parent. Tell them with your words and with your actions that you will sometimes make mistakes too, but they can trust you want the best for them and you will continue to do your best by them.

Trust is a key part of any successful relationship, not just child-parent. It's a privilege to be earned, and should be treated as a gift both from the giver and the recipient. Make sure your teen hears this message.

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