Trust is earned: What it means to trust your teenager


Imagine a future in which parents have a lie detector in their brains and can tell whenever anyone is lying. Sure, people of all ages would never get away with anything, but no one would trust each other. Trust needs to be earned, otherwise no connection forms between parents and child.

Children may be easier to read when it comes to lying, but teenagers are skilled in the art. Parents will struggle to determine if their child is lying, eventually suspecting every action of their teenager to be false and only to cause trouble. Trust is a crucial component to everyday life and without it parents may just drive their children toward the very thing they warned against.

Parents, why trust them?

If a teenager feels the parent pries at their life and never trusts them, then the teenager will stop trusting them. Believe it or not, parents are acting out of concern and care. Seth Meyers, Psy.D. writes, “The goal for parents during these years is to simultaneously guide your child and start to let go.” The actions of watching a child grow up and move on, may not be relatable to a teenager.  What teenagers may perceive as rules and restrictions, are a parent’s desire to protect and raise teenagers.

Meyers continues, “It’s the ‘letting go’ that’s so difficult for your parents, and understandably so: kids can make some very serious life mistakes during this period, mistakes they could spend many years – or a lifetime – paying for.” Life needs to come with a warning label: Mistakes are liable to occur well into adulthood. One possible bad decision ground into the mind of a child at a young age is substance abuse. Substance abuse is a huge concern with teenagers due to how easily addiction can follow an individual into adulthood.

A statistic by the National Institute on Drug Abuse –NIDA– shows, 35.1 percent of twelfth graders used marijuana in 2014. The statistic also finds 37.4 percent of twelfth graders consuming alcohol and nine percent of eighth graders consuming alcohol in 2014. Part of the reason teenagers lie, is to avoid punishment. Parents use punishment to teach children a lesson and keep them from repeating harmful mistakes. Yet, parents should be cautious and restrain from using strict punishment as a first reaction to teenagers. Parents who treat teenagers as children push them to continue abusing the rules and illicit substances. Instead of yelling as the first response, parents need to give teenagers a chance to speak and then react appropriately.

Teenagers, how do we help them?

Preparing a parent for the possibility of their child abusing an illicit substance is difficult. In this situation, it can be difficult to know where to place the blame. Parents may feel responsible and as if they have failed.  Regardless of who is responsible, both parents and the teen need to work together to treat the substance abuse.

If a teenager shows signs of abuse, seeking professional help is the first step. NIDA writes about substance abuse in teenagers and why it is, “…not a moral failing, but rather an illness that needs to be treated.” Parents need to hold back judgments. Yes, the teenager has made a harmful mistake, but he or she needs help more than a lecture. Margarita Taratakovsky, M.S., writes about being an available parent and literature on the subject. Taratakovsky explains how being an available parent means listening more than lecture and judgment.

Teenagers who seek help from a doctor can choose to keep their information private from their parents. Dealing with substance abuse requires trust and open communication, a teenager can hold back information unless the doctor fears the abuse is life-threatening. NIDA encourages teenagers to sign a form allowing parents to receive information, “…because having accurate information will help them find the right care and treatment for you.”

Give teenagers some space and listen when you speak to them. Meyers adds, “Teenage children need to be respected and given a certain level of freedom and [autonomy] to grow up, make mistakes, and become a full-fledged adult.” Parents, be there to help your child through these problems. Teenagers, trust your parents since they made mistakes when they were your age and only want to help.

In some situations, teenagers may need a change of scenery and help from professionals. White River Academy is a therapeutic school for troubled boys ranging from ages 12 to 17, providing aid for boys struggling with issues at school and interpersonal problems. The academy provides treatment and care for the boys, continues a strong education program and instills good character values. For more information or to register, feel free to call 866-520-0905.

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