If your child has been going through a period of behavioral, emotional, or social struggles, it’s common for these struggles to extend to familial relationships. What were once close, trusting relationships may have turned into broken connections and distrustful attitudes from both sides. Because trust can take years to build but only moments to break, it’s crucial to learn how to rebuild trust with your child so you can build and maintain strong, loving relationships.

How parents can rebuild trust with their teens and build a better relationship

There are many strategies and techniques you can use to help communicate with your child to regain trust in the relationship. When your teen has done something to break your trust, your role is both forgiver and teacher. You have to forgive him to allow the healing to start and you need to use the breach of trust as a teachable moment going forward.

Start by calmly explaining why you are not happy with what your child has done, and that even though their act was untrustworthy, you still believe them to be a trustworthy human being. The teenage brain is impulsive and is not always capable of thinking through the consequences of its actions, so keep the scope of a teen’s understanding in check when you are confronting them about a poor decision.

After you’ve discussed your disappointment and reasoning, allow them to be a part of the conversation by asking them what they think they can do to earn your trust back. This enables your teen to have some say in how the conversation will go rather than just being lectured at. Your teen can also be involved in setting the consequences for their actions. Ask them what they think a fair punishment would be, and ultimately set a reasonable punishment that fits the breach of trust.

Once you’ve dealt with the specific incident that broke the trust, help your teen build a path to fully earning your trust back that specifically aligns with the misdeed. For example, if your teen took your car without asking, forcing them to do all the dishes for three months won’t show you that they are trustworthy with the car. Instead, give them shorter test runs with reasonable parameters like allowing them to borrow the car for an hour and seeing how successful they can be within these parameters. Gradually, you can increase the parameters until you are at the level of trust you were before the incident.

Even after some or all of the trust has been earned back, continue to keep a positive dialogue going. Even if your child doesn’t seem like they want to talk to you, spending quality positive time together, just being together, not lecturing, will help strengthen your relationship and trust.

BlueFire can help families rebuild relationships

BlueFire Wilderness is a leading therapeutic wilderness program that combines the best of individualized clinical work, family therapy, adventure activities, and equine therapy to help adolescents make lasting changes. We specialize in treating teens and young adults that are struggling with emotional, social, and behavioral challenges.

Our programming includes family workshops where parents get a chance to see first-hand the behavioral changes in their child as they prepare for the transition back home. These workshops help families learn about the program, repair relationships, and gain a better understanding of therapeutic processing as a unit. For more information, please call (208) 502-2326.

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