Supporting Your Child's Identity

Who am I? Who do I want to be? These are the questions that children will inevitably have to answer for themselves as they move through their journey of developing their identity. Along this journey, parents will also be faced with questions of their own. What is my role in supporting them? How do I encourage healthy body image? What can I do when my child struggles? 

The teenage years especially are full of growing pains. It can be an emotional and exhausting time. Adolescents may feel obligated to assert their independence which may lead to rebelling against their parents. They may become attached to materialistic things to gain acceptance from their peers, or they may begin to define themselves in relation to who they associate with. 

Through trial and error, children begin to refine their sense of self. Some will adopt the values and roles that their parents expect for them, while others will develop identities that will come into a direct conflict with what their parents expected for them and tried to teach them. 

During this often fragile period, when we as parents share our prejudices and biases with our children, we don’t know the full impact we have on them. At the very least, we are teaching them to pull away from certain others, but perhaps, we are also teaching them that a part of them is unlovable. If we ridicule a group of people or beliefs, we might be alienating our children from who they really are or alienating them from us. Our role as parents is not to mold our children to be who we want them to become, but to create the opportunities for them to discover who they truly are, with us as their cheerleaders on this journey. 

Here are 5 tips on how you can support your child’s identity development that was shared during our workshop this week:

  1. Acknowledge their feelings. Encourage them to express their emotions and affirm that whatever emotions they are having are natural and reasonable
  2. Find role models and expose them to people from different backgrounds and life experiences to widen their perspectives
  3. Create opportunities for them to add their own voice and input to family decisions. Help them feel like their thoughts and opinions matter
  4. Support the commitments that adolescents have made. It’s critical for them to know that their parents will be cheering them on and love them just as they are
  5. Allow yourself time for self-reflection. Purposefully set aside time to check in on yourself before connecting with your child

For children who will struggle with identity issues, life will be tough enough for them. They will need the adults in their lives to love them no matter what, to give them the dignity of their choices, and to regularly tell them how much they matter. Our words have great power. We hope that these workshops help us power up!

Amandine & Nicole

Prem School Counsellors

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