As your child grows older and becomes a teen, he's going to wrestle with new issues such as who he can trust. He might have challenges with trusting you, other family members, friends, significant others or society in general. In turn, you might feel that you can no longer trust your kid. Trust goes both ways, so establishing and building trust is a journey you need to take together.
Open a Dialogue
The first step to establishing trust for all parties is talking about it. You probably find yourself wondering whether you can trust your teen as you loosen the reins on him. And as much as it might hurt, your teen likely faces challenges with trusting you and other family members, especially those in a caregiving role. Talk to him about how trust needs to go both ways in the family. Ask him what he needs in order to trust you and tell him that he will earn your trust by following your rules about curfews, homework practices, expected chores and allowed screen time.
Lead by Example
Building a solid track record will prove to you that your teen is trustworthy – but you need to be willing to prove your trustworthiness as well. The best way to do that is to lead by example. Demonstrate operating from honesty and integrity, not only with him but with your friends, co-workers and others as well. Always tell the truth and follow through on your promises and commitments. At the same time, don’t make threats, invade his privacy or be inconsistent with your rules. And never try to make him feel bad for making mistakes or guilty about not doing things exactly the way you'd like.
Your teenager is starting to date and maybe even has a serious boyfriend or girlfriend. As you know, trust in a relationship is crucial to its success. Let your teenager know that it’s okay to feel a little jealous sometimes, but that if he believes he can’t trust his partner, it might not be a healthy relationship. However, never give the impression that you’re forbidding him from dating who he chooses or trust will degrade further. Just offer your guidance and support if he needs it. If the issue is with his friends and the crowd he hangs out with, let him know that you don’t approve of behaviors like smoking, drinking, lying or stealing, but tell him that you trust him to make the right decisions. This will often prompt him to think before acting, since he wants to live up to your expectations. Let him know you're there when he needs to talk, listen to his problems without judgment, and be supportive of his life pursuits.
Set Appropriate Rules
In the age of technology, teens aren’t the only ones who don’t know whether they can trust society or whether they will be spied on, scammed or deceived online. While your teen might be more technologically savvy than you are, he will still benefit from your guidance. Tell him not to share details such as his full name, address or date of birth on his blog or social media profile. Advise him how dangerous it can be to get together with someone in person that he met online. And tell him not to spend money on anything online until he has done thorough research and asked your opinion. To ease the risk of sounding like you’re fear-mongering, make sure he understands that the internet can be a wonderful resource, but caution and common sense is required.
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