Building Trust in Childhood

The element of trust is one of the most crucial building blocks to enrich a parent-child relationship, help the child develop confidence and healthy relationships in their future. The optimal way to achieve this during childhood and aspects related to the virtue’s development are discussed below. According to an age-old expert of psychology, Erik Erikson, the best time to develop the virtue of trust is in early childhood, specifically from birth to 12 months of age.

The journey with becoming friends or foe with the virtue of trust or mistrust:

Let’s begin by understanding why the expert says it’s crucial to develop this during a child’s first year. An infant is entirely dependent on the caregiver for basic survival needs (food, love, security) when they initially become a part of this world. Hence, the caregiver’s awareness and action plan should be in tune with a child’s needs to help develop a sense of trust. 

Secondly, let’s understand how trust or mistrust impacts a child’s development. Socio-emotional security and stability develop if there is an understanding of various elements of trust. The foundational understanding of the trust factor helps develop psycho-social security and stability in a child. Further, a child can relatively easily build trusting relationships in adulthood due to the development of this virtue. Caregivers, especially the parents, can help develop trust by attending to the child’s needs. For example,  when a toddler cries due to hunger or discomfort, they expect their caregiver to fulfill their needs, which builds trust in the parent-child relationship. 

Thirdly, let’s explore the dynamics of what happens if the virtue of trust is not developed. Erickson elaborates that mistrust can blossom in a child where caregivers are emotionally unavailable or do not provide basic care, i.e., feeding the baby when hungry or ignoring it. Mistrust can manifest in the form of anxiety, confusion, and insecurity later in life. Furthermore, if these components become the base of relationships, personality traits, it’s an open invitation to trouble. 

This ingredient of trust vs. mistrust can shape how the child views oneself and the world around them. If trust is broken everything is considered as a dilemma of ” Can I trust the people around me or not?’ creating a state of constant conflict. If the child can attain trust, they develop hope, an openness to experience the world and build healthy, secure relationships with people around them. For this purpose, the caregiver needs to provide mindful and conscious care, support to the child. Trust is the glue that binds people together in a family, relationship, society, or community, allowing people to live and work together. This virtue of trust vs. mistrust leads masses towards healing or harm pathway together.