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Regaining Trust in Families

It’s natural for families to have disagreements and experience disappointments, but when a breach in trust occurs, it takes more effort and time to restore your faith in each other. As parents, you may lose trust in your child at times, and your child may also question your actions as well. Teaching your child how to regain trust with family members begins with assessing your own behaviors. “You need to help them see how important it is for them to be able to trust you and other people, and that they won’t be able to trust others if they’re not trustworthy,” says Tina Tessina, a psychotherapist in Long Beach, California.

Work Together

The first step in regaining trust involves letting go of anger and rebellious attitudes. According to Tessina, children should be taught to work together with their parents to resolve any issues and respectfully ask questions in a reasonable way if they don’t understand what's expected of them. Questions such as “Dad, I don’t understand why I can’t watch my TV show now and do my homework later. Can we work something out?” show that the child is willing to act and communicate responsibly versus throwing a tantrum.

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Model Behavior

Adults seeking to regain trust can teach their children how to do the same by modeling trustworthy behavior. “Don’t expect them to be truthful if you lie to them,” says Tessina. “Don’t expect them to be respectful if you aren't respectful.” Instead, show your children the importance of honesty without adding to the drama that results from rebellious behavior. “They will run out of rebellious energy faster if you wait and say “I'd like to work with you, but I can’t help you if you don’t help me,’” says Tessina.

Reinforce Trust

If a child is seeking to regain trust from you, help her along by reiterating ways in which you do trust the child, says Janet Zinn, New York-based psychotherapist. You can use phrases such as “I trust that you're always kind to the dogs in the neighborhood” to show that she has shown you behavior that is trustworthy. If a parent is attempting to regain trust, it helps to explain behaviors to a child, says Zinn. For example, if a child is confused about your actions, you can say “I know you heard me saying that I didn’t want to see your aunt, but you saw me hugging her and saying it was great to see her. That must be confusing. It’s true I didn’t want to see her, but when the time came, I was happy to see her.” Regain trust by telling the truth.

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Change the Behavior

One of the best ways to regain trust in families is to change the behavior that caused the breach in trust. “Making one change will not do long-term healing,” says Zinn. “It’s important not only to change it in the short term." Instead, show that you're trustworthy by keeping your word more than once. For example, if a parent is constantly at work rather than watching soccer or Little League games, she can’t promise to come to the next game, says Zinn. She has to show up for a few games and then be honest about the times she can make it rather than giving a lame promise.

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