Building trust with children is a process that starts when they are very young. Part of this process is connected to how we interact and communicate with our kids. It may be smooth sailing up until the point where it is not. The emergence of adolescence can change who your teenager goes to for information and potentially adjust the method or frequency at which you communicate. I have included some tips to help parents and caregivers think about trust from a slightly different perspective.
- It is essential to create a space where there is no judgement. More specifically, an environment where your teenager feels encouraged to (respectfully) share what is on their mind. Sometimes this can be challenging because, as a parent or caregiver, the underlining feeling may be to correct or share your opinion. There will be moments when correction or guidance is warranted. However, sometimes there is more value in simply creating a safe space where they can speak. Holding back a “knee-jerk” reaction may allow the conversation to continue and give you the space to process what was said and still have the opportunity to address any relevant issues afterwards.
- Listening! We live in a world of distractions. However, small but important aspects of what is going on with a child may only be noticed if we proactively listen to what children share. Occasionally, we may receive a hint of something more significant if we are listening and can probe to understand further.
- Participating in conversations that, on the surface, may appear simple. Discussions about a game they like, a movie or a show they watched. After a long day at work, you may feel like you do not have time for these small talks (because you are exhausted), but these conversations are the building blocks for more meaningful conversations you will want to hear about in the future. Such as how they are “really” coping with school. How they feel about their friends or potentially lack of friends. Which friends participate in harmful activities and which friends are a positive influence. Further, how they feel about themself as an individual.
- Communications are not perfect! Be kind to yourself if you do not always get it right. Also, please provide grace for your teenager if they do not always get it right. There are hormones, pressures, and a truckload of things that they are trying their best to navigate. Developing your communication skills is a lifelong journey with your child. There will be areas of growth for both of you. The more deliberate you are about listening and being present with your child, the more opportunities you create to build trust with your teenager that may carry into their adult years.
If you require additional support in this area, please contact LifeCare Centres for information on therapeutic support.