Everything your teen learns and experiences during their adolescent years works to continually shape them as a person. During these formative years, teens try on different personalities, explore passions and hobbies, and observe all the other people in their lives. All of these things work together to build up your teen’s own unique, personal identity.
As a parent, you play the role of witness and guide to your teen’s growth, maturation, and identity formation. While identity is a personal journey your teen will navigate largely on their own, it is important to understand how you can support their growth, and help them build a strong, positive sense of self and identity.
How do Teens Define Themselves?
Teen identity is the all-encompassing view a teen develops about who they are, and what motivates them, moves them, and defines them as a person. There are many factors that play a role in teen identity formation, but according to a survey done by Stages of Life, teens ranked “parents and family” and “hobbies and activities” as the top two things they use to define who they are. Other lower ranked factors that teens felt contributed to their identity were:
How to Help Your Teen Form a Strong, Positive Identity
According to Focus on the Family, these are 5 things that you can do to help guide your teen as they form their identity:
Support your teen’s discoveries about themselves.
As your teen makes valuable self-discoveries, you can help them identify the positive things they are finding out about who they are, and who they want to be. Identity is something that evolves and continues to grow over a lifetime, so teaching your teen how to view themselves in a positive manner will benefit them throughout their life.
Point out and praise your teen’s natural strengths and abilities.
Teens are influenced by their parent’s opinions, so it is important to acknowledge and praise all the natural strengths and abilities that you see developing in your teen. This will help your teen feel confident and boost their self-esteem, which both contribute to a strong, healthy identity.
Work with your teen and family to come up with a motto that describes what your family stands for.
Teens will derive much of their identity from your family dynamic. Incorporate your teen into a guided family discussion about what your family believes, values, and stands for, and then create a meaningful family saying or motto that can become part of your family identity and your teen’s identity.
Emphasize and encourage the things that make your teen special and unique.
Many teens will cast aside special aspects of themselves if they feel those things will set them apart or make them too different from their peers. Teach your teen that they are loved and special, and should embrace all the things that make them unique.
Help your teen learn the importance of celebrating and protecting their identity.
Teens often experience identity struggles if they are teased or questioned by their friends or peers. Help your teen understand the importance of their values, beliefs, and themselves. Teach them that such valuable things should be celebrated and protected. Learning to protect the things that make up their identity will prepare your teen for a lifelong, positive self-image and sense of self and identity.
If your teen is consistently struggling with loving the person they are, or showing signs of being disinterested in themselves, family, or activities, then your teen may be suffering from stress, anxiety, or depression. Speaking with a teen counselor as a family can help you and your teen find ways to grow and support a happy, healthy life and a strong, positive identity.