How to build trust in your teens

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Trust is an important part of any relationship. It represents your belief in someone’s good sense, ability or honesty. As your child gets older and starts becoming more independent, it can be difficult to find the balance between a teenager’s need for independence and privacy, and your need to know what’s happening to keep them safe. Find out how you can stay involved in your child’s life through building a trusting relationship.

This could help if you:

  • want to understand why building trust is so important

  • are concerned about your child breaking your trust

  • want to learn how to develop mutual trust with your child.

Why is building trust with your teenager important?

Your child needs your trust to help them in their transition through to adulthood. However, this trust needs to be mutual. You and your child need to meet in the middle and develop a healthy way to trust in each other and each of your decisions. Remember that the more this mutual trust is tested, the longer it will take to get to a place where you are both confident you can trust each other. A relationship without trust leads to second-guessing and questioning each other’s honesty. When your child was young they probably trusted you unequivocally, as the person that kept them safe.

However as children grow up and become more independent, they start to notice and question more. It’s around this time that your child may notice whether you do what you say you will do, which is a key factor in building trust. As a parent, you can’t demand trust. It’s a gradual process that requires mutual commitment and it will inevitably strengthen your relationship. It will also set your child up to develop healthy relationships in the future. It’s worth noting that teenagers are going through an intensely private time in their lives. Personal space becomes very important to them, so the desire for privacy doesn’t always mean untrustworthy activity is taking place. It’s important to keep that in mind.

Benefits of building trust with your teenager

By building a trusting relationship with your teenager, you’re likely see many benefits, including:

  • Your teenager feeling open and comfortable to talk to you about difficult things

  • Your teenager demonstrating positive, trustworthy behaviours in other aspects of their life, setting them up for positive relationships into adulthood

  • Building a relationship with your teenager that goes beyond a parent-child disciplinary relationship, and strengthening your bond for years to come.

What if my child breaches my trust?

Breaches of trust are to be expected, especially as your child starts to push boundaries to test their independence. Depending on the impact of their actions you should work with them to decide on appropriate consequences, which could range from a simple chat about your expectations, through to removal of privileges while they show that they can rebuild trust. Remember that as a parent, you’re the most important role model in your child’s life, and it’s vital that you demonstrate honesty and trustworthiness, in order to teach your child how you expect them to behave.

Talk to them about the importance of honesty and trust, but also make sure it’s reflected in your actions. If your child repeatedly breaks your trust without showing any signs of remorse, or if they show self-destructive behaviours, it might be time to seek help from a professional, such as a counsellor or psychologist, as this could indicate other underlying issues. Consider connecting with other parents in your community to reliably stay informed about your child’s activities and friends.

If you’d like further information, check out how to build trust with your teenager.