Trust is an important part of every good relationship, and as your child grows, he is learning about the role that this value plays in his social interactions. You can nurture his ability to trust by creating a supportive environment, actively listening, and following through on the promises you make. You are your child’s primary relationship and have the role of teaching him what it is to be able to trust someone. By doing this, you are showing him what a trusting relationship looks like, and you are helping to form the foundation on which all his future relationships will be built.
Take time to talk with your child, allow him to ask questions, and provide him with honest answers. Making your child feel like his voice matters and will be heard is a building block for his sense of trust and validation. Acknowledge him when he acts in a responsible and trustworthy manner, and communicate with him clearly and firmly when he does something to damage that trust. Make sure that he knows that you will be there for him if he is faced with a problem or conflict, but try not to overreact, as this may cause your child not to want to share information with you. Children don’t want to escalate the situation and create an even bigger problem, and in these moments, it is best to trust your child’s ability to make the appropriate decisions. For example, if your child comes to you with a problem that he is having with one of his classmates, you should ask him about how he wants to solve the issue and support him with making a decision, but try not to make it for him. Being truthful and candid with one another allows the trust to grow, and helps you forge a relationship built on openness and honesty.
Continue talking to your child about the role that trust plays in all relationships. As your child gets older, he’ll continue to develop more friendships, but you have more influence over your child’s friendships than you may think. If you teach him how important it is to be honest to friends and that he should expect honesty in return, you are helping him define what a trusting relationship looks like. This can also get him to understand that he does not need to associate with friends who are untrustworthy. Try not to share private conversations you have with your child with others. Your child needs to know that he can trust you, and by allowing what he says to you to remain private, you are showing him that he can confide in you. Along those lines, your child may have some secrets that he doesn’t want to share with you, and you need to trust him enough to allow him to keep them to herself. Unless you suspect he is hiding something that could cause him harm, allow him to keep some matters private, as this will help solidify the trust between the two of you.
Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Maurice Elias, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab; Jennifer Miller, Author, Confident Parents, Confident Kids; and Michele Borba, Author and Educational Psychologist.