5 Tips for Helping Your Teen Discover Their Identity

Teens struggle with so many pressures as they navigate school, family and friends. At the same time, they’re also discovering who they are as unique individuals. As a parent, you can support your teen while they develop their own sense of identity. Here are some simple ways you can help.

Listen to Your Teen Without Judgement

Photo by Korney Violin

As your teen discovers who they are as a unique individual, they might be processing many new thoughts and experiences. Listening to your teen without judgement as they work through these challenges is a helpful way to support them. Try to ask more questions rather than give them answers. This will help them establish their own opinions and values, instead of believing whatever you tell them.

Encourage Your Teen to Pursue Hobbies

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán

Does your teen love to draw? Run? Volunteer at the animal shelter? If your teen has a hobby that they truly enjoy, encouraging them to pursue it will make it easier for them discover their identity. Hobbies and passions can change over time, but they’re part of what makes us each unique. You can suggest ways they can explore these hobbies (such as school sports teams or art classes at the local community center); doing so will allow them to build their skills and even take on leadership roles.

Avoid Sibling Comparisons

Photo by Jonathan Pendleton

Sibling relationships can have their ups and downs. From innocent bickering and friendly teasing to outright competition and rivalry, siblings can push and shape your teen as they develop their identity. That said, it’s important to avoid sibling comparisons, which might provoke unhealthy competition between your children. Each of them will have their own different strengths and struggles, which make up their personal identities. Instead, encourage your children to support each other through life’s celebrations and disappointments—these connections will last a lifetime.

Notice When They’re Pushing Back

Photo by Matic Konzic

It’s crucial to recognize when your teen is pushing back because this might be an indicator that they’re struggling with their identity. Teens might focus on wearing the right clothes or being involved in the right activities to fit in at school, for example. They also might rebel against your rules as a way of separating themselves from you or establishing some independence. When this happens, avoid an aggressive confrontation. Try speaking to them in a calm manner and ask why they might be acting out. If you approach them in an open and non-judgemental manner, they’ll feel more comfortable sharing how they feel.

Allow Your Teen Some Independence

Photo by Rosalind Chang

With all of these tips in mind, it’s ultimately important to let your teen have some room to be independent. This can be difficult, of course. You want to protect your children as much as possible and keep them close to you, but for them to grow as an individual, they need to have some independence—risks and all. Try giving your teen a few more household responsibilities along with some new privileges (like an extended curfew). But don’t forget to be available to support them through this developmental period.

Feature Image: David Marcu