Building a relationship of trust with your kids is tough. It’s a process years in the making, and the earlier you begin, the better. When your kids become teenagers, that trust will be even more important to maintain. But when your teen breeches that trust and makes you wonder how you can rebuild it, you might find yourself holding onto your anger and disappointment — and that can’t be good for your relationship.

When your teen makes a major mistake or defiantly disobeys a rule that — to you — is an issue of character or morality, you may feel compelled to make your disappointment known, and that’s okay. Perhaps you have set consequences already, or maybe you have a serious discussion. But sometimes it’s difficult to let go of your feelings and start the healing process.

Here are some helpful things to remember before, during, and after your teen makes a major mistake and betrays trust.

1. Learning From Mistakes — While you are hurt and disappointed, you also understand that no one is perfect. We all make mistakes, but hopefully we turn them into learning experiences. Your teen may feel down on themselves for disappointing you, and to an extent, this is normal and healthy. In our family, we talk things over to discover what we can learn, and how we can move on in a positive direction.

2. Tempering Expectations — Adolescence is a rocky time, where teens are trying to figure out who they are can become. Brains and bodies are still developing, and the transition to adulthood doesn’t go perfectly smooth for anyone. Most misbehavior is just part of learning and growing up. If those mistakes turn into a destructive overall pattern, there are ample resources available for guidance and counseling, if necessary.

3. Providing an Example — Most parents admit that they’ve made mistakes. We’ve all made blunders as parents, siblings, sons, and daughters. Example is a powerful thing and how you handle your mistakes will rub off on your teen. Parents who openly discuss their missteps with their teens and/or show resiliency in how they overcome them provide a powerful pattern to follow.

4. Show Unconditional Love — As a parent, you definitely understand that your love for your child never diminishes or disappears, no matter what they do. The fact that you love them and want to rebuild your trust could go a long way to setting the tone for healing. Even when kids are little, it can be hard to forgive quickly, offer support for every little thing, and accept them for who they are NOW. But these are all ways to show unconditional love.

5. Communicate — During turbulent times at home, we’ve always continued talking to our teens, even when they haven’t wanted to talk to us. This is how we keep communication open, even if it’s only one-way for a while. Eventually, our kids realized they can come to us, even if they’ve messed up. It’s also okay to talk to your teenager about your own struggles through the healing process.

Holding onto feelings of anger or betrayal, if perpetuated, may cross the line from discipline into a new pattern of mistrust. The above tips, combined with time well spent together should help you break that cycle, and start healing your relationship. If you need help rebuilding mutual trust and respect, don’t be afraid to talk to a qualified therapist who can guide you both through it.


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