How do I build trust with my tween daughter?
I get this question from moms all of the time.
My daughter and I have a great relationship. As the mom to a young tween, I know how fortunate I am to have a child who tells me everything. I’m kind of obsessed with this idea of Ayva sharing all of the things with me all the time, forever and ever. I don’t want her to stop trusting me, or to put guards up because she feels uncomfortable, or worse, unsafe, talking to me.
These past few months, as Ayva gets older, I’ve been super intentional about watching the way that I engage with her. Yes, I’m her mother, not her friend, and it’s my job to help her navigate life. I have the tough task, along with her father, of being the teacher, rule enforcer, and the heavy in general. What we teach her in this house is going to dictate what she does when she’s off on her own. Obviously I want her to thrive.
But I also want her to trust me.
When I was Ayva’s age, I maybe had one adult that I felt like I could trust. When things came up, whether I was sad, confused, or just had a question about life, there wasn’t anyone that I felt comfortable turning to. I got a lot of answers in books, and from friends my own age. Some of the advice I received was straight up wrong, or completely inappropriate for my age, and both of those things scarred me for years.
Nope, I want my daughter to come to me. A tween who trusts her parents becomes a teen who trusts her parents. That is the ultimate goal. I don’t believe that all teenagers have to be super moody, ultra secretive emos who skulk around hating the ground their parents walk on. I’ve seen incredible parent / teen relationships, and it’s all built on the foundation of trust.
Girls get an especially bad rap. We’re served the image of the clingy, needy mom trying to talk to her closed off daughter all of the time in the media. Life isn’t like that for real. If we create an environment where our kids feel comfortable talking to us from the very beginning, they’ll look to us as confidantes. And really, as their safe space.
Building trust with your tween daughter takes a little bit of effort. The relationship that you see come out at the end of all of your hard work will be more than worth it!
1. Listen to her.
If you want your daughter to trust you and tell you things, you have to listen to her. Sure there will be some times where you want to chime in and coach (or nag), but you’re going to have to zip it some times. If your girl feels like she’s in for a lecture every time she confides in you, she might just decide to pass.
2. Ask her questions.
Second only to listening is asking your daughter questions. I don’t mean the prying, nosey mom questions that answer the things that we’re really interested in (i.e. Are any of your friends having sex?), but things that you can tell she wants to talk about. Of course you’ll ask the “mom” questions at some point, but give her an opportunity to express her feelings about the things she’s most interested in sharing first.
3. Answer questions honestly.
When our daughters are little girls, we sometimes don’t tell the whole truth because we want to protect them. Tweens can not be fooled. If your daughter asks you a question, answer it honestly. You might have to think of how to phrase your answer to be age-appropriate or so it doesn’t scare her, but don’t B.S. her. If she finds out you didn’t tell her the truth, it’ll be hard for her to believe other things you said.
4. Trust her.
Unless your daughter has serious behavior issues that require extra support, your feelings default for your girl should be trust. Let her know that, too. Tell her that you have faith in her ability to make good decisions. Share with her how thankful you are that she is honest and truthful with you and shares what’s really going on in her life with you. You have to model trust for her.
5. Support her when she messes up.
I don’t care how perfect your daughter is, at some point every tween messes up. Sometimes it’s a big deal, other times, it’s not. Big or small, it will probably feel like the end of the world either way to your daughter. The way that you respond to her in those moments are critical as it relates to building trust. If she knows that she can mess up, get in trouble, and you will still show her love, she’ll feel comfortable coming to you first for everything.