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Building Relationships of Trust

three teen girls sitting on couch with arms around each other

Trust is an essential building block of a healthy relationship with your teen. Trust between two people means they can depend on each other to be honest, reliable, emotionally available, and respectful and responsible. When you have built a relationship of trust with your teen, he/she is more likely to turn toward you rather than turning from you.

Build a Relationship of Trust with Your Teen

Use these techniques to build a trusting relationship with your child:

  • Be consistent in your boundaries. Remember that setting limits and keeping boundaries creates physical and emotional safety. Communicate to your teen your expectations and then consistently hold him/her to those expectations. Do this with a non-judgmental attitude to show your teen that he/she can be honest with you.
  • Be available. Your teen needs you. Show him/her you are physically and emotionally available by making time for him/her. Show that you are interested in what is going on in his/her life and that you want your teen to be real and authentic with you. Be real and authentic yourself with him/her and he/she will be more likely to trust you.
  • Avoid controlling and prying. One of the ways to lose your teen’s trust is to break his/hers. Respect his/her privacy (except in emergency situations) and avoid controlling behaviors like advice-giving, lecturing, criticizing or blaming, bribing, etc.

Focus on Honesty, Empathy, and Respect

These three relationship-building skills are essential to building trust with your teen.


Honesty is vital to any relationship. Although it may seem simpler to act superficial and avoid confrontation, authenticity will always be more productive in building and maintaining relationships. Your inner experience and outward expression of that experience must match and you should be able to openly express your feelings and attitudes. This will encourage your teen to do the same.


Empathy can help you understand your teen better and when he/she feels understood, you will gain his/her trust. Separate your teen’s actions from him/her core self. This will allow you to love him/her despite poor choices he/she might be making. Also, try to see the world through his/her eyes. You may want to ask your teen questions to better understand where he/she is coming from. “What is it about this situation that makes you feel so angry?” “When I do this, what does it mean about you?”.

Your teen will respond to your sincere expressions of empathy and concern. As he/she feels understood and loved, he/she will be motivated to make positive changes.


No relationship of trust can exist without mutual respect. Respect your teen by allowing him/her to take responsibility for his/her actions and learn to problem-solve. You may be tempted to fix your teen’s problems but guiding him/her to solve his/her own problems shows respect for him/her as an individual. As you show respect for your teen, his/her respect for you will increase.

Trust Exercises

You can try the following exercises to think about trust and commit to building a trusting relationship with your teen:

  • Write down two relationships you have had, one that was trusting and one that was not. What was the difference between the two relationships? What did you do to contribute to the trust or lack of trust? What can you do to create more trusting relationships?
  • Think about the role trust plays in your parenting. Write down ways you might have inadvertently broken your teen’s trust. Write down ways you can more effectively show honesty, empathy, and respect to gain your teen’s trust and learn to trust your teen.