Part of the struggle of the teenage years is that teens are often looking to determine their sense of identity. Sometimes, this seeking of identity can have hilarious results, from strange fashion trends to particular dance moves. However, some teens may look for their identity in delinquent actions, such as smoking, petty theft, aggression, and other negative expressions of self.
To help your teen develop a positive self-identity and avoid these more damaging identity explorations, here are eight ways you can encourage healthy development.
1. Teach Teens To Focus Personal Growth, Not Comparison
Theodore Roosevelt said that comparison is the thief of joy, and this lesson is a critical one for teens to learn. Comparing themselves to each other is how many teens—and adults—gauge their level of success. But there will always be someone who has more, does more, etc.
You can help your teen focus on their own personal progress, rather than comparing themselves to their peers or their siblings, by not engaging in comparison yourself. Also, when your teen expresses disappointment that their accomplishments don’t stack up to someone else, help them see that they should look toward their own progress, not someone else’s.
2. Have Your Teen Try New Activities
Part of self-discovery should be done by exploring new things. How does your teen know that they love cooking if they never try it? Or maybe your teen has a hidden talent for language learning.
Some of these talents that can contribute to building a positive identity may come up naturally. However, in many cases, your teen might not discover their talents until much later in life without your encouragement. So, if your teen is considering trying something new, be their cheerleader and let your teen explore.
3. Encourage Exercise And Sporting Participation
Sporting participation and exercise can be great ways to help teens develop a positive sense of self. A team-centric sport can be an excellent way for your teen to connect with other teenagers who are focused on a common goal and build each other up.
Even if your teen prefers more individual sports or physical activities like running or gymnastics, the health benefits of regular exercise can help your teen develop a stronger sense of self.
4. Be A Role Model
While some teens may try their best to be different from their parents, they will often subconsciously follow your example. You may not be aware of the example you are setting when it comes to your own sense of identity, but know that your teen is watching to see what kind of person you are and will often display similar behaviors.
5. Help Them Learn From Mistakes
Another way teens can build up their personal identity is to learn from their mistakes. For instance, say that your teen drinks at a party and is hungover the next morning. While you will be right to discipline them for underage drinking, it is important that you help your teen learn to overcome their mistakes.
Rather than shaming them into feeling that all is lost, and they might as well make the same mistake again and again. That way, instead of embracing the identity of being a failure who behaves wildly, your teen can embrace it as a learning experience and someone who responsibly learns from their mistakes.
6. Have Teen Attend Therapeutic Boarding School
Teens who have been struggling with finding positive ways to establish their personal identity may need extra support and help that can be found at a therapeutic boarding school.
At a therapeutic boarding school, a strong emphasis on therapy and personal growth helps to provide a healthy structure for the attending teens. Class sizes are small with professional, licensed teachers who are ready to help teens rediscover a love of learning.
There are also many activities that are designed to help teens go through positive growing experiences and to look beyond their personal struggles.
7. Participate In Community Service And Volunteer Efforts
Many teens go through a period of feeling incredibly oppressed and lacking in privilege. In most instances, these teenagers can benefit from working as a volunteer. Helping at a soup kitchen or other people-oriented service can help your teen that some people have it truly hard, and your teen can develop a sense of gratitude.
8. Support Your Teen In Finding Part-Time Work
Learning to navigate a workplace and new responsibilities can help your teen develop in ways that simply going to school, doing homework, and lazing on their smartphones never can. Also, while working part-time, your teen can get a taste of financial independence and that kind of work they do—or, at least, don’t want to—in adulthood.
With your active help and support as their parent, your teen is far more likely to successfully navigate the difficult teenage years and come out as a self-confident young adult.