When Kids Feel that Their Parents Don’t Trust Them

When did the kids feel that their parents didn’t trust them? Some parents think it’s all about control; kids just need control, and that is true. Kids do feel like they need control. What happens when we put boundaries on our kids and all of a sudden it’s like, “You can’t do this.” “You can’t do that.” “I need your phone.” “I don’t want you on the computer.” “You can’t go over to their house.” Kids don’t understand that it’s about safety, or they look at it as a trust thing. It’s “Why don’t they trust me to be on the computer?” “Why don’t they trust me to be on my phone?” “Why don’t they trust me to go to my friend’s house?” “Why don’t they trust me to be able to spend the night at my friend’s house?” It’s very important that we, as parents, help them understand that it’s about safety, not trust.

This is where communication gets really muddy between parents and kids. I’m telling you this because I work with so many kids that tell me, “They don’t trust me, they don’t trust me,” and I say to them, “What if it wasn’t about trust? What if it was more about them wanting to make sure you’re safe?” No kid wants to hear that from me; they’re like, “No, you don’t understand me.” “You don’t understand; it’s all about trust.” If you could understand it through their eyes, through their point of view, through their model of the world, it would be about trusting them. So what are you doing to establish with your own child that you do trust them? How do they know you trust them? What do you give them to show trust? By giving them trust, like allowing them to do things, allowing them to go places, allowing them to be on their phone or their tablet? What are the parameters that you can put around so that they know, “Hey! I do trust you.”

I’m going to tell you, as a parent of four biological kids that I have raised, that if I could keep my kids in a bubble, I would, especially now. My older kids and I got through it, and our world has changed since I was raising my 20- and 24-year-olds. It’s scary out there. I would love to keep my kids in a bubble, but I know I can’t. I need to allow them to learn how to survive in this world so that when they’re adults, they get it and know how to survive as adults. I always say that this is our boot camp with our kids. What values do we want to give them? How do we want to show them that they’re worth it, that we trust them, and that we just want to keep them safe? Part of that open, safe, and trusting communication starts with understanding how they’re interpreting what you’re saying.

If they’re interpreting trust, and for you it’s about safety, have that conversation. Say, “I hear you. I appreciate that you want to go out and stay out late, and all your friends are able to do it, but I’m saying you can’t. I appreciate that, and please understand that it’s not because I don’t trust you; it’s because I don’t feel safe. I don’t know you’ll be safe because, as much as I trust you, I don’t trust the world out there.” Have that open and raw conversation with them. Let them know that by communicating with them, it’s not about trust. I’m going to tell you what the kids tell me: they say, “You know my parents don’t trust me; well, I don’t trust them.” And we don’t want that as parents; we don’t want our kids not to trust us. We want to be that one resource that they can come to and say, “I trust you enough to know this and that,” and “I feel safe with you.”

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