How to Get Your Teenager to Trust You and Open Up

These days, most parenting blogs are written by parents, for parents. We wanted to try something different, so we chatted with our lovely intern, Mahnoor Zulfiqar.

Raised in Dubai, Mahnoor shared her top tips for building trust and getting closer to your teen. What she's saying makes a lot of sense - and is consistent with what we know from psychology studies. This is what she had to say...

It takes a lot to build up the trust of teenagers, and very little to lose it. You must earn their trust and then try to maintain it in order for them to open up to you. Here are some tips to make it easier for you to build up that trust and get closer to your teen.

Tip # 1: Listen first

Recognize that your teens are trying to share something with you by giving them a chance to speak uninterrupted. This will show them that you value their thoughts, ideas, and opinions, and that you appreciate the fact that they are opening up to you. It can be difficult, but it's important to resist the urge to interrupt or share unsolicited advice. Teenagers are just like adults; sometimes they just want someone to hear them out.

Tip # 2: Support them

Show an interest in the things that matter to them, even if they seem silly or insignificant to you. They will appreciate your efforts and will be more likely to open up to you in the future. 

Be there for them, no matter what. Congratulate and celebrate their accomplishments when things go well. At the same time, treat their failures as an opportunity for growth. This will help them become more resilient.

Tip # 3: Don't punish them for opening up to you

It can be hard for teens to talk about certain things, especially when they know that you might not support their choices. It takes a lot of courage for them to open up about things like heartbreak and insecurities. Recognize that your teen is trusting you and seeking your support in that moment. You don't have to agree with their choices, but punishing them for opening up to you will make them less likely to do so in the future.

Tip # 4: Show them that you trust and believe them

Teenagers are more likely to open up to you if they think that you believe and trust them. Sometimes, they see things from a different perspective than their parents. Acknowledge their point of view and empathize with their feelings before sharing your own. Contradicting or shutting them down will only decrease the chance that they open up to you in the future.

Tip # 5: Treat them like a teenager, not a child

Teenagers hate being treated like children. Give them the autonomy and space to make their own decisions. This means choosing your battles wisely. Put your foot down for health, safety, and moral issues, but give them some wiggle room when it comes to personal choice and preferences. Making these allowances will show your teenager that you recognize that they are growing up. In turn, this will make them more likely to open up to you.

Tip # 6: Keep their secrets

Don't share what they tell you with anyone else, especially if they have explicitly asked you not to. We might not think that it's a big deal, but it could be really private for them. Respecting their privacy will make it more likely that they open up to you in the future.

Tip # 7: Relate to them

Show them that they're not alone by sharing stories from your own life. Your kids only see you as an adult, they don't really think about the fact that you were a teenager once too. Tell them about your own experiences in high school, whether it's struggling with friendships, acne, or academics. Be open about your challenges and your failures.  Talk about how you problem-solved and tried again. Volunteer to help them do the same. This ultimately builds their resilience, which is what we all want for our kids.

Tip # 8: Understand that times have changed

As your teen has probably already told you, things are different than what they were like when you were teenagers. You probably thought this about your parents too. The thing is, they're right. Things have changed, and some modern pressures, like social media are making things a little more complicated. 

Raising teens can be challenging. Get in touch if you’d like support for your parenting journey, or someone in your family. We’re here to help.


About the Author

Mahnoor Zulfiqar is a third-year undergraduate student at McGill University in Canada, majoring in Psychology, with minors in Behavioural Science and Sociology. She is starting her own mental health club at McGill, so people can talk and learn more about mental health issues. She aspires to become a counseling or clinical psychologist and help make a positive impact in peoples lives. She wants to work with children, adults, couples, and families across a range of different life problems and mental health illnesses. She also aims to eventually help end the stigma around mental health issues in the East. 


Sarah Rasmi