TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - This week's "Teen Talk" is focused on advice for parents about what to do when a teen breaks your trust.
WTXL contributor and family therapist Jane Marks:
With most teen/parent relationships trust is almost always an issue and when a teen breaks your trust repeatedly it can complicate the relationships and life can become extremely rocky. How do you go about the business of rebuilding trust? First a little education on the part of parents understanding that testing of boundaries and the growing brain are a natural part of adolescent transitions. As parents we want to put the responsibility of building directly on the teen however, as parents, it our responsibilities to provide a trust guide. Certainly one of the things we've talked about over the last fifteen years is modeling as much of the skill we're concerned about as we can. Where do you start?
1. Parents, it is important to deal with our own feelings of anger, resentment, disappointment, frustration and hurt. These are legitimate feelings. When dealing with trust that has been going on for a long time, we have to address that first before we even have the conversation. Now that being said, that needs to be the start.
2. Create a framework for success. Provide opportunities to build trust. Cursing, pushing back, not doing well in school simply creates more opportunity for a lack of trust and for diminishing trust. Execution, getting things done, calling to check in at designated times that increase a trust track record.
3. Try a new approach to criticism. Don't attack a teen's personality or character. Praise teenagers in a way that will compliment them not evaluate them.
4. Try to create an environment of nurturing and support. For a young person who repeatedly breaks trust, it is important to point out to him that this continues to make life more uncertain. Also, remember physical touch. This restores tenderness and nurturance, a very important concept.
5. Always, always give positive reinforcement when your child meets expectations whether it's verbally or action wise. Make sure you recognize it in some way. Remember for teens while they believe they know every answer or every model, they don't have the experience base to create plans for mistakes that they continue to make.
6. Parents, when it comes to trust, expect relapse. Teens are most always likely to participate in a behavior that has been a major focus. For example, underage drinking.
7. Teens often want to control the healing process to give you a sense of when they think the consequences should be over. Parents, you must provide the framework for the healing process. You must define the consequences. When looking at consequences you want to make sure your consequences are logical depending on the option and in some cases legal consequences.
8. Clearly define your consequences. Think about a plan that matches closely the act itself. If your consequence is rendered too quickly or in the heat of the moment, you may over or under react.
9. When there appears to be an issue let's say with regards to an incident that continues to happen among a specific group, it is okay to be a detective just so you can get the proper facts together. It might entail calling other parents to double check an incident. For example, a drinking issue that continues to go awry, find out who was involved and get the details so that you all can make responsible decisions. Not to blame other people but just so you can have a sense of what is going on.
10. Discuss the issue of faulty thinking with teens. Teens tend to see parents as hypocritical, lacking knowledge, and certainly not empathetic. Understand that is also part of growing and development.
11. Parents, be careful about lingering mistrust. That is a fear that your child will continue to participate in the risky behavior. This is normal. Again one of the things you want to get back to is nurturing and support and that's what families are all about.
12. It is also important to try and develop support systems for yourself. Talking with other parents, partners, or groups of friends who are also experiencing this kind of drama in their lives. This helps to put things in perspective for you.
13. The road to rebuilding trust is a normal part of raising teens which is what this segment is all about.