Adolescents and young adults in foster care can have difficulty bonding with their foster families. In some cases, they feel uncomfortable around adults and other authority figures due to early childhood trauma. Havenwood Academy offers mental health treatment for girls struggling with trust issues. Our residential program uses talk therapy, brain spotting, neurofeedback, and other proven methods to help children heal from trauma, build social skills, and regulate emotions.
How Does Building Trust Help Your Child Heal?
Children who have lived through adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) may have difficulty trusting authority figures and peers. These experiences may cause them to retreat from social interaction. However, self-isolating behaviors and resistance to social connections can affect a child’s mental health and social development. Professional treatment programs like the ones at Havenwood Academy help foster teens establish healthy social skills. Children have a unique ability to bounce back from traumatic events when they have access to essential resources.
Foster parents can help their daughters heal by providing consistent support and a nurturing home environment. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “When parents and children have strong, warm feelings for one another, children develop trust that their parents will provide what they need to thrive, including love, acceptance, positive guidance, and protection.” Furthermore, traumatized children who trust their foster family experience the following benefits:
- Increased sense of self-worth and self-confidence
- Reduced anxiety and stress
- Fewer behavioral problems
- Stronger personal bonds
- Healthier social interactions
- Lower risk of developing mental health or substance use issues
Building trust with teens affected by early childhood trauma takes patience, compassion, and empathy. Children who have attachment and behavioral issues may struggle to connect with the people around them. Earning their trust is the first step to supporting positive changes in thought and behavior patterns.
Trust Improves Mental Health
Consistency is essential when attempting to build trust. Your foster daughter will be more likely to confide in you if she knows what reaction to expect. Foster parents can improve their child’s sense of self-worth and empower them to feel more comfortable expressing themselves when they do the following:
- Communicate clearly and respect her opinions
- Model healthy behaviors
- Encourage her to set healthy boundaries
The previously mentioned HHS article states, “A child’s early experiences of being nurtured and developing a bond with a caring adult affects all aspects of behavior and development.” Therefore, the actions you take to gain her trust impact how she relates to others later in life.
4 Easy Ways to Build Trust
Every child in foster care encounters unique challenges and requires personalized care to ensure they feel loved and understood. As teenagers transition into adulthood, family relationships become even more critical. Youth.gov says, “Permanent relationships with positive adults are a powerful protective factor against negative outcomes and can provide critical support to youth as they transition to adulthood.” Below are four ways foster parents can build trust and encourage their child to engage in productive, healthy social interactions.
#1 Give Them Space to Explore Their Identity
Early childhood trauma and ACEs can make it difficult for teens to feel comfortable exploring their identity. A few ways parents can support self-expression include:
- Talking with their child about their feelings
- Supporting their choices and preferences
- Encouraging them to engage in hobbies and creative activities
#2 Actively Listen and Validate Their Feelings
Children need to feel heard and understood. According to Professional Psychology, Research, and Practice, “Difficulty regulating emotion is thought to develop in childhood based on . . . an invalidating interpersonal environment.” Parents can validate their child’s experiences by actively listening and doing the following:
- Taking time to understand their child’s thoughts and beliefs
- Encouraging them to share their ideas
- Reacting calmly and objectively to conflict
- Remaining consistent in their reactions and expectations
Parents should listen to their children and trust their intuition. If a child has worries, concerns, or uncertainties, talking about those things with a trusted parental figure can help them process and develop solutions.
#3 Be Consistent in Your Responses
Building trust is easier when one removes uncertainty from the equation. Foster parents should be consistent with their expectations and responses regardless of the circumstances. Children who feel unsure about how their foster parent will react to various situations may hide things or bottle them up, causing an increased risk of depression and other mental health issues. Providing a safe space and remaining consistent will help your child feel more secure and supported.
#4 Be Patient and Compassionate
Practicing patience is a vital step in building trust with children. No matter how they react or what issues they struggle with, parental figures should remain compassionate, empathetic, and patient. With time, consistency, and patience, children can accept that their foster parents will not abandon, reject, or judge them.
Children in Foster Care Can Overcome Distrust
ACEs can cause distrust and negatively affect many areas of childhood development. According to Bruce D. Perry in The Boy Who Was Raised As a Dog, “Recovery from trauma and neglect is . . . all about relationships—rebuilding trust, regaining confidence, returning to a sense of security and reconnecting to love.” Parents who provide a loving home and access to mental health support make it easier for children to grow and heal.
Some foster children have trust issues caused by past experiences where they were neglected or abused by a parental figure. Children in foster care may have trauma or unresolved issues that require professional mental health treatment. You can support your child by ensuring she has access to high-quality therapy and support. Havenwood Academy offers residential treatment programs for girls who struggle to form healthy attachments. We use evidence-based methods to encourage healthy coping skills and social development. Our team also provides family support and education. To learn more about our services and programs, call our office today at (435) 586-2500. We can give your foster daughter the tools she needs to heal and recover from childhood trauma.
Think Havenwood Might Be For You?
We encourage any visitors considering placing their daughter in treatment to fill out our online assessment as soon as possible. This two minute form will give our admissions team all the information needed to determine if your daughter is a good fit for our program.