NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Teens, Parents and Trust

Teens, Parents and Trust


          Parenting involves allowing our children to have more responsibilities and freedom as they grow older. Generally speaking, the goal is to let go, and letting go requires trust. Trust in a family might including -  “I can count on you to be honest, to follow through on your promises, and to treat me with respect.”

          As teens get older they spend less time with parents and more time with friends, at work, and in other activities away from home. Since teens are spending more time in places where parents are not watching, we have to trust them to make a lot of decisions. As parents, we often worry that our teens will make poor decisions when faced with choices or situations they might not be ready to handle.  Trust is a balance between the fear of what might happen with the knowledge of past decision making and responsibility taking. If a teen has always driven the car safely in the past, a parent may be willing to trust the teen to drive the car a longer distance.

          Trust is a two-way street.  Fear can also make it difficult for teens to trust their parents. Teens might fear that their parents will take away their freedom, try to control their lives, or embarrass them in front of their friends. Trust between parents and teens makes it easier for teens to talk with their parents when something goes wrong. The teens must set aside the fear that the parents will be angry and they need to feel confident that regardless of what has happened, things can be worked out.

          Listening to your teens when they freely share with you about themselves and their lives. If your teens trust you enough to speak openly about their lives, you are in a good position to learn about and affect some of their most important decisions. In fact, research shows that parents trust their teens more when the teens are willing to share about their activities without being asked. When children share information on their own, this serves as the best means for accurate parental knowledge. It also is important to be a listening parent so your teens feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and experiences with you.  Here are some tips on how to build trust with your teenager.

          Ask your teen questions that encourage him/her to share. Asking your teens about their day or how a certain activity went may open the door to their sharing information about the choices they are making in their lives. If you respond calmly and supportively to your teens when they share, they are more likely to continue sharing.


          Allow freedom with limits. Encourage and support your teen to be independent from you by slowly allowing more freedom. Your teens still need limits on behavior and consequences when they break rules, but they also need to have privileges that increase with age and maturity.

          Be open. Saying that you are open and being open to talk are two very different things. If you say you will answer any awkward question they have and then close up like a clam when they ask – they will know you are not open to them. If you aren’t there for them, they will find someone who is

Find out what kind of new interests fill their lives.

          Look for positive moments.  Acknowledging and sharing when things go well shows your teen that you are proud of them and their decisions. When you make it clear that you want to help them through their struggles, you will be taking the first step toward building a trusting relationship with your teen.

          Provide opportunities. Gradually provide your teenager with opportunities to make his own choices and decisions. Start small. Give him an opportunity to choose what extracurricular activities he would like to engage in.  He will learn that when you make a decision, he will have to live with it. This will help him not to become impulsive and he will learn to give his decisions more careful thought.

          Stay calm. It can be very disappointing when your teenager breaks your trust.  Calm reactions and working together to right the situation can go a long ways toward rebuilding trust.



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