Trust in a Relationship between Parent-Child

Building trust in a relationship forms the basis for a close relationship with our children. Unless there is trust our children will not feel psychologically safe to be or express themselves. This impacts on their coping styles in life and affects their relationships in adulthood.

Case studies

Jo-ann had a mother who was very insecure. Her Mom also lacked self-awareness and would behave in ways that made Jo-ann feel very uncomfortable.  She would dress Jo-ann in fancy party dresses and then make comments in front of other people. Jo-ann’s mother had little appreciation for the fact that she was a shy little girl who intensely disliked any attention in a crowd.

Jo-ann’s Mom also spoke about her to her friends. So Jo-ann felt totally exposed. She never felt relaxed in her mother’s presence. It is clear there was a lack of trust in the relationship. Over the years she learnt to keep her thoughts and feelings to herself. There was never a close mother-daughter relationship.

Andrew’s mother was very tense during her pregnancy with him. She and her husband were running a restaurant at the time. Sandy was a tense person by nature. She was also the more driven parent. As a result she carried most of the responsibility.

So Andrew was born into a stressful atmosphere at home. His mother was too busy focussing on running the restaurant than paying much attention to him. As a little boy he began to internalise his emotions. At times he would have explosive outbursts at home. Trust in a relationship, a significant relationship with his mother, became a problem.

Fortunately his mother brought him for therapy. After a series of sessions he learnt how to handle his emotions. Sandy also learnt how to support him. Over time their relationship improved. In this case Sandy had focussed on the family’s day to day survival. It came at the expense of a close bond with her son and his emotional well-being.

Why is trust crucial?

Children will only behave in a natural spontaneous way if there is trust in a relationship. If they trust their parents they will talk about how they feel and express themselves readily. They will play with more freedom and be creative.

When children are around 18 months they start to explore their world. They want to touch, smell, feel, taste etc. what they can lay their hands on. If there is little trust in a relationship this may hamper this exploration phase of their normal development.

This can result in children being scared to be themselves, to take little risks, to venture out and try new activities, etc.

Ways to build trust

Some ways to build trust in a relationship with your child include:

  • Learn to listen and refrain from being critical. Hear what you children have to say. Just listen. Ask them further questions so that they can start to think for themselves. Do this in a playful way. It is important for our children to be heard, truly heard. Giving them our dedicated time, enables them to feel validated and understood.
  • Be open in your communication. One mother used to explain a great deal to her daughter. As a result her daughter understood and co-operated very well. This mother never used any form of physical punishment or even “time out”. To this day they have a very close bond.
  • Be consistent. If you let your children do something one week but refuse an activity the next week, this gives them mixed messages. They learn that you are unpredictable.
  • Keep to your word. If you have promised them a treat or an outing, stick to your commitment. If we fail to do this our children soon get the message that they are not important or that they cannot rely on us!
  • Be fully present for them. Spend some time alone with each of your children. Let them know it is their time – no matter how short. Make sure that your cell phone is off and that your full attention is with them. Children do not need long periods of our time. But they do need our full attention.

How much trust is there between you and your children? If you would like to strengthen the bond with your children relationship counselling would be of great benefit.


Posted in Family, Parenting.