How to Build Trust in Kids & Teens

Building trust does not always come easily. Yet strong relationships -- including those between parent and child -- are built on trust. Clinical psychologist and daytime talk show host Dr. Phil McGraw says that building a trusting relationship with your child will help him feel more comfortable coming to you when he has a problem. Even if your teen just needs to talk, you will not know what is happening in his life unless you are involved.

Talk Easily

Your child will be more likely to open up and talk to you about the things that bother her if she knows you will not overreact to what she says. Dr. Laura Markham, a mom who trained as a clinical psychologist at Columbia University, points out that research shows that parents who talk about the tough issues with their children beginning at an early age have a better rapport with their kids when they become teens. Acting naturally and at ease when your child confides in you can help her feel comfortable talking to you 1.

Offer Support

Building your child’s confidence can help him make better judgments. Although most parents are ready to jump in and offer advice when their child has a problem, sometimes a child just needs a parent to listen. Dr. Markham suggests having confidence in your child’s ability to handle a difficult or challenging situation. Even before he talks to you, he may already be thinking about ways he can solve the problem. What he needs is your support in carrying through a plan or in choosing the best solution.

Follow Through

When you are trying to build trust between yourself and a younger child or teen, always follow through on any promises you make. Bestselling author Michael Hyatt explains that you have to let others know they can count on you to make good on your promises. Since a promise is actually a commitment, you do not want to let your child down. You can hurt the trust she has in you by not keeping your word 1. If something suddenly comes up and you really cannot follow through with what you promised, go to your child and explain why. Discuss other options for fulfilling the commitment. Chances are your child will understand 1.

Share Your Thoughts

Often, parents do not share with their kids what is going on in their own lives. Pediatrician and mother Dr. Yolanda Wong suggests sharing some of your own troubling experiences with your child. Let him know what you are thinking and feeling. Dr. Wong says how much you want to share will depend on your child’s age and his level of maturity; however, involving your child more in the family’s decisions will help him feel valued. Sharing thoughts works the other way around, as well. Listen to your child when he talks. Be nonjudgmental and accepting of what he tells you. He needs to know that you care and understand.