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Guiding Your Teen to Self-Identity

As a parent, you play a vital role in guiding your teen to self identity. It is important for you to recognize the changes that are occurring. Teens are entering the world of abstract ideas, hypothetical situations and formal logic. Unless you know what to expect, you may misinterpret your teen’s actions. Sometimes it is not easy to determine exactly what to do.

As your teen matures you will find yourself engaged in more conversations and exchanges of ideas. Teens at this age are better able to understand other adults’ points of view.

Mental development can lead parents to think that they are losing control over their teen. At this time, teens try their new intellectual wings and see home as a safe place to test them.

Your teen can think more like an adult, but lacks the experience to apply ordinary, practical realities to everyday life. As a parent, discuss some realities of day to day life that are bothering them.

Helping teens feel good about themselves is important. The better they feel about themselves, the less likely they are to give in to peer pressure.

Teens need parental love and encouragement. Tell your teen, "I love you!" Teens want praise for their efforts and achievements. Be sincere with your praise. Don’t shame your teen by telling them "you know better than that." Don’t embarrass them by asking "what kind of home will people think you come from?" Don’t intimidate them by saying, "at the rate you’re going I doubt you will make it to high school." Avoid comparisons such as, "your sister got A’s, why can’t you?" Sometimes parents use remarks to prod a teen into action. The message the teen receives is a negative one. Take care when using remarks.

Encourage your teen to participate in activities and include ones that your teen can master. Your teen may have the desire to be a Tiger Woods, but may have the talent to be an average golfer. It is an honor to achieve when you are the best that you can be.

Teens need real responsibilities that are more than self-oriented. They need responsibilities that are other-oriented. Responsibilities give teens the feeling of importance. Teens doing service learning or community service hours for school are meeting a graduation requirement (self) while doing something that benefits the group for whom they are volunteering (others).

Encourage independent thinking. Lay the needed groundwork, emphasize the value of independence and challenge the group morality. Say, "You have told me what the group is doing or thinking, now tell me what you think."

Take the time to talk to your teen about the meaning of true friendship. A friend is someone who likes you for you, understands when you have problems, tries to help, and is there for you when others are giving you a hard time. Be a friend to your teen as well as a parent.

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