As many teenagers mature and begin to assert their independence, some of them alter their behavior. The young person tests limits and frequently disregards their parents’ rules and expectations. During my twenty years of working with teens and their families I have found some things helpful to keep relationships strong, and while reinforcing limits and expectations.
Case Study – “Sue” and the Importance of Building Trust
“Sue” was fourteen-years-old when she came to me for counseling. She wore dark makeup and long bangs “hiding” her face. She had a history of running away and difficulty following any rules at home. As time went on Sue began to open up about some difficult issues she was experiencing which she was not discussing with her parents. With prompting she began to talk to her mother and develop a more trusting relationship.
To develop trust with your child the first step is having an open forum to listen to each other. In Sue’s case, when her parents were prompted to hear about some of the struggles she was going through they actively listened to her. Sue began to feel more trusting of them
It is important to listen without judgment. The only exception is if your teen is sharing information that may be dangerous to him or her. Trust can also be developed by allowing more privileges as rules are followed. For example, if your teen follows curfew regularly and wishes to have a later curfew allow them this privilege. Sue began to earn the privilege of going to friends houses and having friends over without parental supervision. This occurred following discussion about expectations and demonstrates a sense of trust.
This was due in part to her mother’s willingness to listen to Sue and not judge her. It was time to allow Sue to have more privileges and develop trust with her parents. Sue to begin to follow rules at home and express her frustrations without screaming or leaving.
Sue’s parents played a large part in the positive changes by trusting Sue and praising her for her positive behavior. As her parents began to let her grow up she also developed a sense of trust with her parents. Sue became more comfortable with herself and the struggles of being a teenager and dramatically changed her appearance, taking care of herself more and showing a positive attitude about herself. This was by no means easy. It took time, patience, practice and repeating the same expectations again and again.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association of Social Workers.
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