Five Minute Therapy Series: Children & Identity

Welcome to my new series I am running in conjunction with Sarah and Jayne from BE Integrative Therapy. For those of you who have followed me for a while, you will have heard me mention Sarah and Jayne before. I work closely with them on positively raising our children. They are counsellors and hypnotherapists, with one of their many areas of expertise being children and I really couldn’t do what I do without them!

The first in this five minute therapy series focuses on identity and self-confidence. Although, the questions are from a parenting teenagers perspective, the issues that Sarah and Jayne touch on are not only relevant to those with younger children approaching the tween stage but also for adults too.

1. So, what is identity? In short, identity is a sense of self, understanding who we are, what is important to us and where we fit in. Although developed throughout life, it becomes particularly relevant in adolescence.

2. What are the main problems facing teens on identity? Who we are is not necessarily who we want to be, or think we want to be. During adolescence, the struggle to develop the confidence to be an individual is particularly profound as peer pressure influences our sense of belonging when friendships are so important to our identity. In addition, Social Media is a constant reminder of all that seems to be perfect in the world, full of aspirational images that for the less secure individual only serve to undermine a healthy sense of self-worth. Being able to access the social networking environment 24 hours a day can lead to increased incidence of anxiety and issues with body image, self-esteem and a general understanding of realistic expectations that make self-acceptance even more of a challenge.

3. What advice would you give to teens who may be reading this and consider they have identity issues? Perhaps the single most important thing to clarify is that however mixed up you might be feeling, during adolescence this is normal. It is a period of intense change and development and a time when you should allow yourself to discover what makes you happy, how you present yourself to the world and ultimately create an identity that is individual to you. You will not necessarily be the same person when you are with your friends as you are when you are in a formal environment and there is nothing wrong in this. People develop different aspects of their personality and behaviour in order to fit in with each of their friendship and social groups. As long as you are comfortable with the choices you are making you will be able to maintain a healthy balance whilst staying true to your individual identity. Problems tend to arise when you try to adopt behaviours or opinions that you are not comfortable with. If something doesn’t feel right, then it most likely isn’t right for you.

It is hard sometimes to fit in but try to develop as many different social groups as possible so that you give yourself the greatest chance of connecting with people and things that make you happy. If you have a passion for something, then someone else will undoubtedly share it and this is where social media can be a really positive tool. Don’t force yourself though, interests develop and change as you get older and if having some time to yourself, quietly reading a book makes you feel fulfilled, then do it! It’s who you are, it’s part of your identity so don’t be frightened to embrace it!

4. What advice would you give to parent’s who may feel their child is going through this? Allow them to explore what makes them happy, and encourage them to try lots of activities and experience as many different things as possible. Many adolescents are challenged by their parents or carers because they never appear to stick at any one thing. This period in their lives is the perfect time for them to dip in and out of activities until they find something that they fully engage with. By allowing them this freedom to develop their own interests you will be giving them the best possible chance to be happy with themselves and the identity that is emerging. If you can get involved too, then that’s great, but if they are clearly wanting independence then that’s fine too, just remember though you don’t have to share their passion, just try not to be a kill joy!

5. What can society do to be of more help? Society generally can help by being seen to be non-judgemental and giving adolescents the chance to experiment with what makes up their identity. This is not the same as allowing irresponsible or harmful behaviours, but there needs to be more support of diversity in the media. For Society to function properly everyone needs to conduct themselves respectfully and courteously towards others and adolescents can learn from their elders as well as their peers. They need to be given the chance to grow and change without overwhelming criticism and if given the support to make mistakes and learn from them they will know that they have a supportive network around them as they develop into solid, reliable and confident young adults.

Thank you, Sarah and Jayne, for such informative responses to these questions. I particularly love the aspect around what society can do to help as this affects us all at whatever stage we are at parenting. Children learning from their elders as well as their peers happens throughout childhood and with good role models during those younger years, the teen years may hopefully be less stressful. I love also, the way you normalise so many of the feelings. This will hugely help teens realise that what they are experiencing is not unique to them. Wonderful, insightful advice that I will be sharing with my three for sure!

This series will be running once a month. If anyone has any other topics they would like to see discussed in this format please let me know. Thank you, once again, to Sarah and Jayne.

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Finally, Sarah, Jayne and myself have started running a series of parent group therapy sessions based in London. Our first was on social media and our children. This event was a huge success and as a result, we have finalised our next event which will be on positive parenting and picking your battles. Tickets for this event are now on sale and are available here. We would love for you to come and join us and chat some more in an open and informal atmosphere. If you have any questions please get in touch.

 

40 thoughts on “Five Minute Therapy Series: Children & Identity

  1. Thanks for this Helen, Sarah and Jayne, really useful post and great idea for a series. Although mine are still small it’s always good to have an idea of the issues that might lie ahead – forewarned is forearmed! I can already see ways in which I can help my two to develop their sense of identity on a basic level at 6yrs and 8yrs which is something I’d never really thought about until now. I think self confidence, in particular around body image would be a good subject for future posts. Both big issues I appreciate but so strongly linked for a lot of teens and something that affects many of us well beyond the teenage years.
    #bigpinklink

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    1. You are welcome, Charlie. Thank you for your comment! In fact, the age your children are is a great age to start with the issues that Sarah and Jayne mention about role models. It’s quite frightening how influenced our children are from a young age. From my experience, it’s best to have all of this covered before they hit the teen years full on. I think you are going to be one well prepared mama!

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  2. Being seventeen myself, the words written here sound like they’re coming out of my own mind. After a tough year, I know that identity is a big one for me. I find myself questioning who I am, why don’t I fit in, will I ever meet people who just ‘get’ me – simply for being me. I’m a completely different person at school compared to at home. I walk in to school feeling judged from head to toe with body confidence, what I say, what I’m wearing .. the list goes on. At home, I’m myself. I don’t care what people think of me, cause I’m myself – and that’s enough. I don’t feel judged (except when my sisters friends come over!… but that’s a different story!) when people come over and don’t like who I am, because frankly – I won’t be seeing them again. At home, I can choose who sees me as me, but at school you get judged from someone that its judging the person they see, but they don’t realise people put on a mask to come to school! Funnily enough, I find it a lot easier chatting to people that aren’t in my peer group. I come across confident and easy to talk to. But with my peers, I can’t afford to say anything wrong – because I could loose a friendship over it (in my opinion.) But at home, that’s a completely different story. Part of it, I think is the pressure that comes with being that ‘stereotypical’ teen, that personally I don’t think represents who I am. I’m learning to grow out of hiding under the pressure weight that comes with being a teen, and trusting myself to be whoever the hell I like! The people who don’t like my identity, I don’t need to hang around. But at school that becomes a bit more of a problem, as you’re trapped in this world – seeing the same people every day with there own opinions and judgements. Sorry, I’ve got carried away, just feel quite strongly about this topic. Thank you for writing this, Helen, Sarah and Jane. I hope lots of teens read this, to know lots of people go through it – it helps. Iz xxx

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    1. This brought tears to my eyes Izzie. This is exactly why I wanted to start writing posts like this so I could get teens to read and help them in some way. To help them realise that others are going through it. I am so pleased that you relate to this post and that Sarah and Jayne’s advice is relevant. Being a teen can be the loneliest and toughest time of your life – I went through it – but there is help out there and there are others that feel the same. Thank you so much for your very honest comment. I know that it must have taken a lot to write those words so I can not thank you enough. Please let us know if there are any other topics we could write and also let us know how you think we could get this post out there xxxxx

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  3. Thankfully for most people, as they become older these “issues” become resolved and people become more confident in themselves. But while going through teenage years, things like “identity” are definitely a major issues.

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  4. This is really interesting – I know the teen years can be such a challenging time because kids are struggling with their identity to figure out who they are and what they want to do. Giving them the freedom to experiment is so important. #DreamTeam

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    1. Thank you, Katie. I think if we all reflect back on our teen years a lot of this post will ring true. I know that I had this thing about only wanting to wear red shoes as if that defined me – I didn’t even own any but I had this ideal that it would make me who I wanted to be. I still don’t have any red shoes so have absolutely no idea what that was all about! Thank you for your comment xx

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  5. Developing identity goes hand in hand with self worth in my opinion. We need to teach our children to be confident and happy with themselves but not at the denigration of anyone else. Tough being a teenager, I would hate to go through it again! #bigpinklink

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    1. It really does – I so agree. So hard to give teens the skill set they need sometimes to develop that self worth – I need to find a way to get more teens to read this post as Sarah & Jayne really do have the best advice to help. Thank you for you comment x

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  6. very interesting read. I think that this is something that many people spend their whole lives looking for, and also one that can change for many. I agree that one of the biggest challenges we face as parents of teens is helping them to feel comfortable with who they are. #familyfun

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  7. Such an enormous topic and a very pertinent one. From the perspective of a teenager the advice that rings true for me having watched my two is “Problems tend to arise when you try to adopt behaviours or opinions that you are not comfortable with. If something doesn’t feel right, then it most likely isn’t right for you.” And as a parent “Allow them to explore what makes them happy, and encourage them to try lots of activities and experience as many different things as possible.” At such a formative period they need access to variety.

    The teenage years are a voyage of discovery and our teens need gentle guidance but also space and room to explore and flourish and that includes of course making mistakes along the way. My own advice to my teens is to stay true to themselves and their own values at all times.
    Thanks for sharing this Helen, alot of food for thought. #TweensTeensBeyond

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    1. Oh you are so right about the gentle guidance and of course the need for them to make their own mistakes. I have big views on not snowplough parenting (well as long as the mistakes aren’t too big!). Thank you for your comment xx

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  8. As a teen I had lots of different friendship groups and I think it did me good. Lots of people stuck to one ‘group’ and I think, in hindsight it caused a lot of issues. I had a few really close friends and then lots of wider circles – I would absolutely advocate this. I really interesting read and some excellent advice, I am all for positive parenting! Thanks for joining us #familyfun

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    1. Oh thank you so much! It’s the kind of advice that I wish I had read a long time ago. I think it would also have helped me as a teen if I’d been able to read this kind of material – made it all a little less daunting xx

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  9. This is hugely informative Helen and goes a long way to explaining what is at the heart of many teen mental health issues. It is so true that we need to learn to love ourselves and society makes it very hard to do that. This is essential reading for parents of teens! Thanks so much for sharing with us at #TweensTeensBeyond

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  10. I already know I’m going to love ALL of these five minute therapy posts, this is so brilliant, helpful and completely relatable to, like you said, children and adults alike. I’m definitely walking away from reading this with some amazingly useful information, thank you lovely and thank you for sharing with #bigpinklink x

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    1. I think it makes for good reading for those with all ages of children, particularly with the aspect about society – we all make up society. Also it helps prepares those with smaller children about the up and coming years. Sometimes it is too late to start changing how we parent opnce our children have become teens! Thank you so much for your comment though Kelly xx

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  11. Loved reading this Helen, and there’s some top tips here that I would love to tell my teenage self. There’s nothing wrong with reading a book in the corner, that was me, but wishing to be something else. Thanks so much for linking up at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x

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