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I lost my parents trust! How can I get it back?
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Q:

Just 2 months ago I lost my parents trust and I have done EVERYTHING to regain it but NOTHING helps! I do not know what to do! I asked to go to my friends house to stay the night (with her mom there) and they absolutely refused. I'm going nuts having to stay home all the time!

A:

Trust is a funny thing. For the most part it is freely given, but once it is lost, regaining it can be costly both emotionally and physically. Rebuilding trust once it has been damaged or lost is no easy task. It is not easy for the people who have been let down and it is certainly not easy (nor should it be) for the person who damaged it to begin with. When you factor in things like; respect, authority figures, love and disappointment, the struggle to rebuild can be even harder.

You say that it has been 2 months since you lost your parents trust. 2 months is not a lot of time and it isn't really reasonable for you to expect them to be "back to normal". You have destroyed a life time (yours) worth of trust and it is going to take time and sacrifice to earn it back. Lots of time and lots of sacrifice - on your part. It is hard to accept, but as the "trust breaker" you don't get to set the time line for fixing things. In fact, you don't get much say in anything that pertains to whether or not they will ever trust you again. Chances are that they will come to trust you again, but it won't be on your terms.

You don't say what you did to lose there trust. Are they justified? If they are, your best course of action is to "grin and bear it". If they have every good reason on earth to feel the way they do the very last thing that will regain their trust is YOU telling THEM when "enough is enough". When deciding if they are justified you need to take a big step back to look at what happened. Did you break rules you knew existed? Did you do something they specifically asked you not to? Did you lie, cheat or steal? Did you commit a crime? Did you harm another person or yourself? Did you do something you knew would disappoint or embarrass them? If you were a parent, would you be mad? If the answer to any of these questions is "yes", all you can do is wait for them to hand you an olive branch. You have to sit back and do every thing you can think of to show them you are sorry and that you won't risk losing their trust again should they see fit to give it back to you. In short, you have to bend over backwards to be a better more trustworthy you.

Are they over reacting? Is what you did something that would better fall in to the category of "value differences"? Is the core of the current problem that you and your parents disagree over a fundamental issue; like having sex, maintaining privacy or going to college? Is what "lost their trust" actually you asserting your independence? Be honest here! It is not asserting independence to skip school, sneak out on a date, run away from home, or shop lift. Asserting independence would be more along the lines of saying, "College isn't for me!" over and over and then acting on it when the time came. If the issue at hand here is something you and your parents have come to heads over in the past with the only problem being that you stopped talking and started doing, maybe it would be worth it to revisit the issue. You can't make them trust you, you can't even make them "understand", but you can make your feelings known and in doing so you may feel a little better.

As to the core of your question - getting trust back - there are a few things you need to understand first. When trust is lost there are a variety of emotions to face in gaining it back. You will have to be prepared to deal with your parents; anger, resentment, disappointment, frustration and hurt. You will also have to address their legitimate feelings of being disrespected, of being taken for granted, and of being used. After all, they pay your bills and keep you safe and you owe them something for that - you owe it to them to honor their rules and wishes. If you can't honor their rules and wishes you owe it to them to open a dialogue about the problems and NOT sneak around doing whatever you please. What most parents can't handle is a child who tells them one thing and then does another. They tend to be able to handle a child who openly disagrees with them better than one who lies and makes them believe they are being listened to when in fact, they are not. The disappointment factor is much lower when your child makes their differing views known, and disappointment is a key component of lost trust.

To get things back on track with your parents the first thing you need to do is stop trying to control the healing process. As I said before, you don't get to set the terms. You need to accept their anger and fighting them on it is not accepting it. Even asking to go to a friends before they have made it clear that they are ready to deal with you again is forcing the issue. It is a passive agressive way of saying, "Are you over it yet?" That is only going to make matter worse. When they are ready to give you back your freedom, which automatically comes with a small degree of trust, they'll let you know. Until then in regards to being "stuck at home all the time", you have to accept that part of what is going on is punishment, and any truly remorseful person accepts their punishment without question.

You say you have done "EVERYTHING" to get back their trust, and that is a good start. Keep doing "EVERYTHING" and don't stop even when they don't seem to be responding the way you want them to. But while you do "EVERYTHING" try to understand that they are the injured party here and that they are under no obligation to accept your gestures of good will. They don't even have to factor in your suddenly good behavior when deciding what to do next. See it from their perspective: you have done something so terrible in their minds as to destroy trust and now that they are mad you are suddenly a perfect angel, would you be in any hurry to go back to the way things were if you were in their place? Your parents have no faith in you right now and they are not going to change that so you can go back to normal and possibly, return to the type of behaviour that damaged the trust so badly in the first place.

If things are really unbearable for you, try to initiate a conversation so that they know how you feel. Make sure that the reason you are sorry is that you lost their trust, not that your freedom has been curtailed, before making any efforts to open the lines of communication. If your regret even seems to be more about self pity than remorse, you have already lost the battle. Do not resort to threats of, "you're not giving me any reason to be good" or say stupid things like, "you are making me have no choice but to sneak around", those type of sentiments will not help your case. Instead, tell them you know you screwed up and did a bad thing. Let them know that you are sorry and that you will do whatever it takes to fix things. Tell them that you are feeling in limbo because they have not given you any indication about what they need from you in order to even try to trust you again. Then sit back and be prepared to listen to a bunch of stuff you won't like hearing. Don't get defensive and don't turn things in to a fight about how "unfair" or "unreasonable" they are being. You damaged the trust here and you are the one who needs to deal with the fall out. Don't expect them to rush to closure in order to make you happier. You can't force trust, trying to may make it disappear forever.

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