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Helping Teens Trust an Adult

by Flora Richards-Gustafson

Trust is a basic action and social concept that's essential for feeling cared for and safe, advises psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne in the article "The One Key Element That Can Build Your Relationships" on the Psychology Today website. Trust is the foundation of all relationships, and it must be earned. If an adult wants to gain a teen’s trust, she must acknowledge that it’s an ongoing process of growth, patience, faith and communication.

Show Respect

A teen develops a sense of trust for an adult by watching how he treats others. If you don't show that you respect others -- and not just to their faces -- you are less likely to gain a teen's trust. In another article on the Psychology Today website, "Five Trust Building Dos," human-resources expert Nan S. Russell states that when you show respect, your actions and words align with the message that you want to send about your trustworthiness.

Demonstrate Trust First

A teen might often hear messages that express distrust, such as, "You're too young," "Do you know how to…" and "That's what you said last time." To gain a teen's trust, you have to demonstrate that you trust her. You can show trust by giving a teen a responsibility, valuing her opinion, telling stories about yourself and opening the lines of judgment-free communication. When a teen thinks that she "messed up," demonstrate trust by providing constructive feedback and avoiding guilt trips.

Follow-Through

Trust is something that you earn in part with your actions. If you tell a teen that you are going to do something, do it. You demonstrate trust by expecting a teen to have the same courtesy, and earn it by proving that you're dependable. When a teen knows that he can rely on you without getting hurt or disappointed, he's more likely to trust you. If there's ever a time that you can't follow through on a plan or promise, discuss the matter with the teen ahead of time so you can reschedule or find an alternative solution. This will show the teen respect and demonstrate that you care about earning and keeping the young person's trust.

Set and Enforce Boundaries

Boundaries make expectations clear. For example, when a parent acts like a parent and doesn't try to be a teen's friend, the teen knows that her parent will give her what she needs, not necessarily what she wants. When you're trying to earn a teen's trust, it's important to have the mentality that you must follow through on your adult role first before you're her friend. Remember, your goal is to have a teen trust you, not necessarily like you all the time. When you have a relationship with a teen that's based on clear expectations, respect, structure and consistency, mutual trust will follow and grow.

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