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Ways to Build Trust Between Parents and Teens

Boys & Girls Club of Greater High Point

Healthy, supportive relationships are built on trust. Trust is the belief in someone or something’s ability, strength, truth or reliability. 

Trust in a relationship takes time to build and requires both people actively work to maintain it. It’s also a two-way street: you place your trust in another individual and ask that they place their trust in you. 

For a parent and child, trust is a foundation that benefits both people:

  • For kids and teens, knowing their parents trust them can deepen their sense of safety in the world, support their self-esteem and confidence as they try new things, and assure them they have someone to go to when things don’t go according to plan. 
  • For parents and caregivers, having a trusting relationship with your child means you’re more likely to have an open dialogue and a strong relationship. Trust can lead to upfront conversations where you can be your child’s sounding board or support system, instead of your child catching you off-guard through lies or going around your back.

So how do you begin building a trusting relationship in a family? And what do you do when trust is broken, and you need to regain trust between a parent and a teenager?

Here are some tips for building trust that parents and teens can use to create supportive relationships:

Tips for Parents: Ways to Build Trust with a Teen

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Ask open-ended questions.
When talking with your kid or teen, ask open-ended questions that encourage them to add their thoughts and how they’re feeling. By doing this, you’ll begin establishing an open dialogue with your child where they know you’re interested in what they have to say and there is space for them to share when they’re ready.

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Give specific encouragement.
Encourage these open conversations and deepen your teen’s trust by pointing to specific things in the conversation and sharing how you might feel or experience some of these things too. Validate their feelings and how their sharing is important to you (“I feel sad like that, too, sometimes. In fact, last week, I felt like that when [event happened]. I appreciate you being so open with me”) and encourage them to describe their plans and feelings (“So what do you think you’ll do next when it comes to [topic]?”). 

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Show your child that you’re trustworthy, too (and recognize when you make a mistake).
Remember, trust is a two-way street. Modeling behavior is one of the biggest influences a parent has in the life of a child. Be an accountable partner in a trusting relationship by doing what you’ll say you’ll do and being honest about your own thoughts, feelings and mistakes. When you go against your word, be upfront and tell your teen about it, share that you recognize the consequences, and apologize if needed. An example might be: “I know what you shared with me the other day was private. It was on my mind today and I told your grandma without thinking, which wasn’t fair to you. I wanted to let you know and I’m sorry – next time I will be more thoughtful about what I share, because it’s really important to me that I honor what you’d like to keep private.” 

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Give your teen opportunities to be independent.
Parents often worry about decisions their child will make in the world, but a trusting and supportive relationship can’t be one that’s under lock and key. Give your teenager chances to be independent and feel the trust you’ve bestowed in them. If there’s a specific thing you’re worried about – like your teen being sexually active with their significant other or starting social media accounts without your knowledge – address that specific worry with your teen, talk through scenarios and how they would act, and above all let them know you’re there to support them. After all…

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In good times and bad, be on their team.
As a parent or caregiver, a key to building trust with kids or teens is to always be on their team, no matter what. Even if it’s a tough issue, you’ll work it out together. When your teen knows you’re on their team, they’re more likely to share choices and decisions before making them. But even if they don’t, they’re more likely to come to you afterward. Being on your teen’s team doesn’t mean there are no consequences for bad decisions, but it does mean that you’re in a trusting parent-and-child relationship that doesn’t change when circumstances shift.

Learn more ways parents can support trusting relationships and positive emotional well-being in their teens with these tips from the Center for Parent and Teen Communication.


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