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.
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.