Adolescence is a tumultuous and often overwhelming time in life, and as a result, teens commonly make mistakes that can lead to broken trust with the adults in their lives. Teens who struggle with depression, anxiety, drugs, and underage drinking are even more likely to have behavioral problems that cause a significant breach of trust with their parent or guardian, and an important part of any treatment program will be the rebuilding of that trust. Re-establishing trust takes time and patience, but if you follow a few key guidelines, it is possible to repair and perhaps even strengthen your relationship with your teen. 

Engage in Honest and Open Communication

Teens may be more likely to break the rules or push against boundaries when they don’t understand them. Try to have calm and honest conversations with your teen about your reasons behind certain rules, and encourage them to ask questions. As teens and adults have different ways of thinking about the world, try to engage in a respectful discussion about both of your experiences and viewpoints. Since teens are less likely to think about the future and the negative consequences of their actions, they will need a little more help to see the bigger picture and understand certain guidance.

Model Trust and Reliability for Your Teen

While it may be tempting to give your teen lectures about the importance of trust or the emotional effects of them breaking a rule, there is little evidence to back up this approach, and it could cause your teen to pull away and rebel even more. Trust is maintained by each person involved in any kind of relationship, so it will be important for you to model the kind of trustworthiness you expect from your teen. Be sure to follow through on any promises you make, and be honest with your teen about your own actions and feelings.

Prove That You Value Understanding Over Punishment

For many teens, it can be easier to act defensive, deal with punishment, and move on than it is to truly grasp the emotional impact their breach of trust has had on your relationship. While anger is a natural reaction to a teen’s misconduct, it’s important to fight the urge to hand down a swift and severe punishment and instead focus on the broken trust. Before you decide on disciplinary action, calmly ask your teen to think about and list the ways their actions have impacted your relationship. It can be difficult for teens to empathize with guardians, but this is an important skill that will aid in building mutual respect.

Openly Share Information

Your teen will feel better equipped to make healthy decisions if they feel safe sharing information without fear of anger or judgment. When you are ready to allow your teen some freedom again, emphasize your willingness to calmly listen when they need help weighing difficult decisions or navigating social pressures. Make it a point to check in with your teen about your plans each day, and always let them know of any changes to your schedule as this behavior encourages them to do the same. 

Overall, it’s important to remember that no teen is perfect, and breaches of trust are almost guaranteed to happen as they gain more independence and prepare for young adulthood. After you follow the steps needed to rebuild trust and respect, it’s important to encourage and positively reinforce your teen’s trustworthy actions.