A strong relationship is built upon trust, which is so hard to maintain yet so easy to lose. Even your child’s trust isn’t guaranteed, although it may be more steadfast than other relationships. But after a string of empty promises, a child of any age will notice if you aren’t reliable. Once a child feels they cannot trust you, it can be very difficult to go back.

It’s important that you are honest with your child. If you aren’t going to be able to make the baseball game then don’t even say there’s a chance. And don’t keep saying “next time” to your child about a special day together. It will break their heart every time that you don’t appear and soon they won’t believe a word you say. It’s difficult to disappoint your child, but disappointing them with honesty rather than the emptiness of false promises helps your kids know you care.

To avoid such sad feelings on both ends, don’t assume you’ll be able to do something. Know for sure before you make any plans — and then stick to them. Your child will forgive one or two cancellations when you are there for them most of the time. The time you spend with your child is so precious and they will remember those moments forever. And if something changes for the better and you can make that baseball game, the surprise of you showing up unexpectedly will bring your child more joy than you can imagine.