Family Signposts to Lower Our Trust of Others

In our Family, we Question other people’s Ideas and Opinions


  • When watching a film, reading a book or reflecting on a real life situation, look for opportunities to question a person’s actions, ideas or opinions. For example: “Do you agree with that? What would you have done? Do you think they are right?”
  • Model having healthy, robust conversations with one another. Show your children that different perspectives can be shared, without any one person dominating. Purposefully model scripts such as “That’s an interesting perspective, but it’s not one I share.” “Whilst I respect your opinion; I have a different one. “ “I think we need to accept a difference in opinion.”
  • When deciding a family expectation or rule, invite your children to respectfully question your decision. For example: “I would like you to leave your phone outside your room when you go to bed. These are my reasons why. What do you think about this decision? Is there something I have missed that we need to talk more about?”
  • Teach your children helpful filters to question, reject or disarm comments intended to hurt them. For example: “Do I trust this person? Do I value this person’s opinion? Why might this person have said this? Is there someone I trust who might have a different opinion on this?”
  • Explore age appropriate visual strategies to help your children dismiss hurtful comments or opinions. For example: a brick wall blocking the comment, batting the comment away with a racket, turning down the volume on the speaker or taking batteries out of the person’s remote control with which they are trying to get a reaction.

In our Family, we Decide if someone is Trustworthy before we Trust them


  • You might explore trust as a rope connecting one person to another. As we gradually build our trust in one another, the rope strengthens and gets stronger.  It can When trust is broken, it can feel like the rope has snapped. Trust can build again, but it can take time.
  • Explore  what it means to trust someone. For example: how long it takes to build trust; what qualities you see in a trustworthy friend; how people may seem trustworthy but may be deliberately trying to create that impression.
  • Adolescents may have many ‘friends’ on social media, but may struggle recognise different levels of trust and intimacy within their different relationships. Use a Circles of Trust visual to help your children explore this further. Draw five concentric circles. Draw your child in the middle. Ask them to draw different people in different circles depending on much they trust each person – the closer to the middle, the more they trust the person. Help them to reflect on how their level of trust needs to influence how they relate to different people in their lives.
  • When your children are let down by others, help them reflect on how their trust was broken. If appropriate, explore boundaries or safeguards to stop them from being hurt again by the same person. For example: “When you are with Jess, imagine a wall around you which she can’t climb over, or a door you can open but she cannot.” Help them consider what they would need to see in the words and actions of others  if their trust was to build again.
  • When your children let you down, help them reflect on how your trust was broken and what they need to do to build that trust back up again. For example: “When you lied about where you had been, it broke my  trust. What can you do to build up my trust in you again?”
  • Encourage your children to use privacy settings on their social network accounts. Explore why they are so important, and the possible consequences of not using them. Help your younger children set them up, and then ensure they remain in place.
  • Be explicit about the dangers of inappropriate disclosure on social network sites. Explore filter questions such as “Who will see this? Who could they pass it on to? What about when this relationship finishes? What would my future employer think if they saw this? What would my family think if they saw this?”
  • Adolescents can be overly optimistic and trusting of others. Such naivety can leave our children very vulnerable; they may not anticipate risks and dangers. Before events or situations where you think your children might be naïve, explore what the risks might be. Help them think of ways to manage rather than avoid or ignore risk. For example: “This is your first time on the bus alone. What are the things that could go wrong? How can we lower the risk of those things happening? If that did happen, what would you do?”

In our Family, we Question other people’s Actions before we Follow them


  • Adolescents are particularly influenced by the anticipated responses of their peers. Their drive for social approval and belonging may lead to choices in a peer setting they would not make when on their own. Explore with your children why this might be. Share your own experiences of being an adolescent to show you can relate to their experience.
  • Equip your children with age appropriate strategies to anticipate the consequences of going along with their peers at particular trigger times. Example 1.  Traffic lights:  RED – stop; AMBER – think: what could the consequences be?  FLASHING AMBER – make your choice; GREEN – now act on it. Example 2. Movie Camera: PAUSE – stop; FAST FORWARD – what could the consequences be? REWIND – make a choice; PLAY – now act on it.
  • Teach your children assertive strategies to help them exit a situation where they feel under pressure to conform. For example: using I statements, adopting assertive body language. Be clear about situations in which they need to tell an adult about what has happened. For example: being touched inappropriately, been asked to do or watch something which leaves them uncomfortable; observing bullying.
  • Notice if your child’s behaviour is unhealthily influenced in a particular social setting, and help them be more self-aware about what is going on. For example: Use a stage metaphor to help your child notice how they are performing on a particular stage in front of a particular audience. Remind them that they are responsible for the choices they make on their own stage; the audience is not in control – they are.

In our Family, we have Reasonable Expectations of others


  • Adolescents can be immediate in their requests and expectant that others will meet them. Being too responsive will lessen your children’s opportunities to develop reasonable and  realistic expectations of others. For example: Encourage them to plan ahead when needing lifts,  needing certain clothing washed by a certain day, or needing a deadline extension on a piece of work.  When they fail  to plan ahead, assuming others will let them off the hook or sort things out for them, allow them to experience the consequences; that is how they will learn to plan ahead next time.
  • When your children inappropriately interrupt or interject, point out  cues they ought to have noticed. For example: a person is engaged in conversation, looks like they are concentrating on something; their door is closed. Suggest scripts to preface their interruption and  exercise better judgement. For example: “Do you have a minute Dad?” “Is this a good time to ask you something?”  Model such openers when tempted to interrupt your children mid computer game!
  • Your children may have unreasonable expectations of what other people should do for them, without taking sufficient responsibility themselves. For example: waiting for you to collect their dirty clothes from their room rather putting them in the laundry basket. Don’t collude for an easy life!  Take these opportunities to develop their personal responsibility and increase their empathy for all you do you as a parent.
  • Those adolescents who have had little setback or discomfort in their lives to date may struggle to resonate with those who have. They may not recognise the fragility that may come from setback and naively assume others to be as confident and secure as they feel themselves to be.    They may make thoughtless comments without recognising its impact. Help them to recognise and take responsibility for their social footprint. For example: “Our social footprint is the impact our words or actions have on others. When we tread, we need to recognise that we walk on different kinds of ground. Some ground is softer than others, and our footprint can have a very big impact; at these times, we need to tread more lightly.”

In our Family, we are Resourceful rather than Relying on others


  • Value resourcefulness by naming it and affirming it when you see it. For example: “You worked out how to change the battery; looking it up on You Tube was  very resourceful!”
  • Model resourcefulness yourself. Tell your children when you find a solution, overcome a difficulty or solve a problem. Show that struggle is a necessary part of the journey towards resourcefulness and resilience.
  • Teach your children simple age appropriate problem solving skills to solve their own problems. For example: STEP S- Say the problem; T-Think of possible solutions or actions; E- Explore the consequences; P-Pick what you are going to do.
  • When you see your children struggling to do something, be wary of stepping in too soon. Grappling with struggle is how our children develop resilience. Acknowledge the struggle, show belief in their ability to master the challenge, and then scaffold their next steps. For example: “This is a real challenge, but you will get there. What have you done already? What is the hardest part? How are you going to deal with it?”
  • When your children lose or break their belongings, be cautious about replacing too quickly. Encourage them to find, fix or do without, building their personal responsibility and resourcefulness.

In our Family, we value Approval and Affirmation whilst not becoming Reliant on it


  • Encourage your children to affirm their own achievement and value their own qualities and skills, rather than looking for affirmation from others. For example: “What are you most proud of in your report? What skills did you show in that football match? What did you learn from that experience?”
  • When affirming your children, use a balance of approaches. As well as public affirmation, look for private ways to affirm what you notice. Private affirmation can have a more powerful impact. For example: a text, a post it note on the bed, a message on their mirror in a dry wipe pen.
  • Notice times when your children play to the audience, seeking attention, kudos or affirmation. Reflect this back to them to develop their self-awareness. For example: “I notice how much you talk when you are with Jack. Is it something you have noticed too? Have you noticed that you talk much less with Ted? I wonder why that might be?”
  • High performing or compliant children may have a strong work ethic, driven by a desire to please others. The bar may get raised higher and higher in order to maintain the level of affirmation they seek. Help your children to set well paced and realistic expectations for themselves based on their own judgements. For example: effort units – “You have 10 effort units which you need to share out between all the things you have to do. How are you going to distribute them?”