As your children grow from toddler, to adolescent, to adult it’s natural to be more concerned about their activities and choices. If you begin at an early age to establish trust and follow routines you’ll both be more comfortable when those tricky teenage years begin. Here are three important things you should do, while your child is young, to build trust in your relationship:
Foster open communication
Begin, at an early age, talking to your child. These early discussions could be about what their favorite character on TV did that day. They could be about the great adventure they went on playing outside. Whatever the story is, they choose to tell you, take the time to listen intently to your child when they are young. As you establish this routine, this safety and security of sharing with you, they will continue to do so as they grow up.
When your child starts school, establish a time of day where you sit together and review the events of the day. Let your child tell you their triumphs and their struggles. Let them talk to you about the best and worst parts of their day. These simple conversations could happen around the table at family dinner. They can happen as you spend five minutes of time with them each night before they head off to bed. The key in starting early, is that your child will feel safe and secure talking to you while they are little and continue as they grow older.
It’s important to have set boundaries and rules in your home. These should be established while your child is still young. Allow your child to have some space in your home, like a bedroom, that is all their own. Allowing your child to have a space where they can be in charge, change things, or even escape will help them feel more secure in your home.
In addition, establish norms for other areas of your home. Let your child know what behavior is acceptable in your home and how they should act in regard to other family members. Establishing these boundaries early will provide your child with needed structure. It will also prepare you for teenage encounters when the rules need to be enforced.
Allow your child to be responsible for choices. If you never allow your child to make a choice on their own, they’ll never learn to trust themselves. They won't learn to trust you. And they’ll never learn who they are. Begin when your child is young.
They will begin early to know who they are. When you allow children to make choices early in life, they learn the natural role of consequences. Early choices like what shirt to wear or what to read may not have a consequence either way. But choices about eating, doing chores or other duties can be a valuable introduction to consequences.
The key to building a relationship with your child that will survive the teenage years is to start now. If you begin when your child is young, you’ll find the relationship you hope to have with them, as a teen, is already there.
A. Lynn Scoresby, founder and president of My Family Track , First Answers , and Achievement Synchrony , and has been a marriage and family psychologist for more than 35 years. He has published more than 20 books and training programs.