The question I hear most often when talking with other parents whose son or daughter have fallen into drug and alcohol use is this: How do we rebuild trust with our child and when is it okay to do so?
This is a great question for any parent, not just those whose kids have made some questionable choices. After all, there are inevitably going to be times during the precarious in between child and adult years when every parent asks “how do I know for certain if he/she is telling the truth?”
The obvious answer to that question is…you don’t.
As a mother to five children, one who has worked in adolescent treatment and who volunteers with a local organization to mentor teens in need, while I am no expert, I do have some experience and there are two very simple pieces of advice I give to others when asked this question. The answer comes in cliches, yes that’s right…cliches!
1. Trust takes time to build, and you can’t rush time.
When kids mess up and get caught, they may fess up completely and feel like that’s enough to earn back trust. But the truth of the matter is you should never blindly trust once you have definitively seen it is not in your best interest to do so. Nor is it in the best interest of your child. So as much as your kiddo wants you to move on and get back to trusting him/her again, it just isn’t realistic (or smart). As with any relationship, trust takes time to develop, which leads me to cliche number two…
2. Actions speak louder than words.
What is it they say? A man (or woman) with nothing to hide, hides nothing. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself the hard questions such as: Are your child’s words and actions in sync? Are they upfront with cell phone/computer/social media conversations? Does your child make eye contact with you when you converse? Do you know with whom and what they are doing when they are out of the house? Do you know what they are doing when they are under your roof for that matter…how well, if at all, do you know the parents of your child’s friends and what they will and will not allow in their home?
I have found, by trial and error in my own parenting, it is crucial to put the bulk of my trust in my own instincts. I love my children but they arrived in the world not as perfect human beings, rather as those capable of wrong doing and falling into curiosity and temptation. So in order for me to do the best job I can as their loving guide and protector (to the extent I can be), I need to look no further than their behavior to gauge how much trust to give.
Akin to these two basic, yet never too often conveyed cliches…what you DON’T hear is often more important than what you do.
Trust is rebuilt in increments, with each example of “walking the talk and talking the walk” comes the ability to gain it back.
This post originally appeared on Kimberly’s website.
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