Trust is the foundation of the parent-child relationship, according to Meghan Vivo with the Aspen Education Group, an organization committed to improving the quality of life for youth and their families. Trust begins early when you respond to your child’s cries and continues as you set an example of trustworthiness your child can follow. Trust has to be maintained and nurtured, and must be rebuilt when broken. Trust activities can take many forms, and vary according to the age of the child.
Preschoolers and Kindergarteners
Young children want to trust their parents, according to the world’s leading lie detector expert, psychologist Paul Ekman. Encourage your child to be truthful by providing a truthful example, keeping your promises and not placing your child in a position where he has to to lie to you, suggests Ekman. If you promise to catch him when he jumps from the monkey bars, be sure you do. Additionally, give your child opportunities to return that trust by being honest with you, playing fairly in games and talking about situations when your child feels his trust has been violated.
First and Second Graders
As your child gets older, give her more opportunities to trust you by giving her more freedom so that she knows that you trust her. Blindfold her and lead her around the room using a short rope, ensuring that she doesn’t trip over or bump into things. Stabilize her bicycle until she tells you that you can let go and let her ride on her own. Read stories about trust together and ask her, “Why is it important that you can trust me?” Talk about ways you build her trust, such as reliably meeting her needs, picking her up from school on time and keeping your promises.
Third and Fourth Graders
With older elementary kids, you can engage in more complex types of play and trust-building activities. Instead of leading your child around the obstacles, talk your child through the obstacles so he doesn’t fall. Demonstrate trust in your child by letting him blindfold you and take you through the obstacle course. Give your child an identical number of snap together blocks, pick up sticks or pencil and paper and have your child duplicate what you do by listening to your instructions. This activity encourages your child to trust what you tell him to be accurate.
Fifth and Sixth Graders
Intermediate aged kids have learned to listen and follow instruction. Use activities that employ effective trust building and communication skills, such as having your blindfolded child walk towards a wall until you tell her to stop before she bumps into the wall. Have your child look you in the eyes and tell you something she feels is important, such as something she fears or feels strongly about. Demonstrate your trustworthiness by accepting her truth, thanking her for trusting you with it and promising not to reveal the trust without her permission.