Trust is a gift that is earned, rather than being bestowed simply because of the title of parent. Even in biological families, trust is earned from your children beginning the moment of birth. And although we’d like trust to be immediate, the simple truth is: It does not work that way. Patience is required as trust is developed.
Make promises and keep them.
This should become habitual – not just the keeping of promises (which is essential) but also making them. Children learn to trust when promises are made and NEVER broken. Do not make a promise if you think there is even a chance you can’t keep it! Even simple actions can be promised before being carried out:
- I promise to wake you in plenty of time for you to get ready for school
- I promise you that if you eat your vegetables, you will get a cookie for dessert.
- I promise you that I will be at your concert.
- I promise you may have a birthday party.
- I promise we will read for 15 minutes tonight.
Even if it’s hard, always be honest. This means you can’t even let your children hear you or see you be dishonest with another person. Give back the extra dime at the checkout; tell your child you will be late even if you know it is disappointing; answer all questions with the social worker honestly; don’t sneak food into the movie theater. All those little things tell big stories to your children. If they can see that you’re trustworthy with others, they’ll learn that they can trust you too.
Communicate about everything.
And do it correctly. This means that you must listen more than you speak. Repeat to your child what you think they’re telling you and make sure you understand his/her heart. That can only happen as communication takes place and becomes more important than TV or social media or magazines or friends. While discipline and order are essential, be flexible enough to take time to really communicate with your children.
For some children, their early trauma may require that they need years to build solid trust; for others it may come quickly. Have faith. Every step you take, though you may not see immediate results, is a step closer to a trusting bond.