teenager looking at sunset

How do I build trust with my teen?

We all want our children to develop the skills necessary to make good choices in life and to grow into trustworthy young adults. As a parent you can play an important role in demonstrating behaviours of trustworthiness. There are a number of behaviours and strategies that can help build trust with your child such as:

  • listening without judging, and keeping conversations with your teenager confidential
  • not looking at their private messages to friends and, even if dire situations may call for this and you may have to, don’t make it the norm
  • knocking before entering their room, and asking before going through school bags and drawers
  • showing that you keep promises and that you’re reliable and honest is a great example for your child
  • while asking enough relevant questions to ensure you’re comfortable with how they handle a situation, assume that your teenager is capable and responsible unless you have a reason to believe otherwise
  • finding your funny side, as laughter is a great way to connect and show you don’t take everything so seriously.

How to helping your child develop the skills needed for trust

Remember that teenagers are exploring their independence and often make decisions while they’re engaged in enjoyable activities, with little thought for the feelings of anyone else at the time. A breach of trust doesn’t necessarily mean your child is a bad person, so try not to jump to conclusions and take it too personally.

  • Talk to your child about your expectations around trust and why it’s important to you. Be specific in defining how your child can earn your trust. Simply saying ‘Grow up!’ won’t give them the information that they need.
  • Try to avoid using phrases like ‘You’re untrustworthy’. Trust is linked to their sense of self and they need to understand that it can be developed with experience, practice and discussion.
  • Use reasonable consequences that teach and prepare them for real life, while trying not to be too controlling. Working together with your child to agree a reasonable consequence for their behaviour can work well.
  • Always give them an opportunity to reflect on their actions and rebuild your trust again. Remember, all of us are likely to have breached someone’s trust at some point!
  • Remind them that they’re still loved, even when you’re disappointed.

Page last review by ReachOut Parents Clinical Advisory Group on