Trust is often viewed as a very “adult” topic, but it’s something that begins in childhood. Our ability to form trusting relationships with others is connected to our experience of trusting adults in our lives. Much like adults, kids can struggle to trust others. As a parent or close adult figure, you do have the power to help kids with trust issues.
Identifying Trust Issues in Kids
While adults may be able to articulate their lack of trust, kids may not always be able to do so. Instead, they may exhibit some of the following:
- Expecting the worse.
- Not believing what other people say.
- Jealousy, including jealous feelings when others interact with their parents.
Why Do Kids Develop Trust Issues?
Trust is not reserved for romantic relationships, instead, it begins in childhood. As children, our first relationships are with our caregivers. We depend on them, and if caregivers do not provide comfort, safety, and reflections of our emotional states, we may struggle to develop trust. In some cases of neglect, abuse, or trauma it is clear why a child would develop trust issues, but many kids with a seemingly “healthy” life can as well. Imagine the eldest child who felt pushed to the side once younger siblings arrived, even though his parents loved him and did not intend for him to feel this way.
How to Help Children Build Trust
The earlier you can help a child build trust, the better. It may be harder to do for older children, but it’s never too late. Here are some ways to help kids build trust:
- Follow through with promises. Set the stage for trust by following through when you say you will do something.
- Only make promises you can keep. Breaking a promise you made to your child will really harm their trust.
- Be honest. Of course, the way you answer questions should be age-appropriate, but don’t lie to your kids.
- Listen to your child. Pay attention to what they have to say, allowing them to express their emotions. Make eye contact and show that you are paying attention.
- Facilitate autonomy by promoting a sense of control. For kids, this can include constructive activities like sport, volunteering, clubs, and more.
Trust is something that begins in childhood and continues throughout life. Helping kids develop trust is important for their development and relationships. While it takes time and patience, you can help the children in your life cultivate trust using the tips above.