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Adolescent Identity Issues

By English: Petty Officer 2nd Class Wilyanna Harper, U.S. Navy [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Adolescence is a time of great uncertainty for many young men and women. The teenage years are a crucial developmental time as children grow into adults and it can bring with it many different emotions and issues. During this phase in life, a young person will develop their ethnic, gender and sexual identity and it is not uncommon for them to feel overwhelmed by everything that is going on.

Forming an Identity

When going through the teen years, many individuals have increased responsibilities such as a job, academics and sports. Relationships with peers can change and the results can cause undue pressure and stress. A youngster may not always let a parent know when they are experiencing a tough time, but caring parents can play an important and ongoing role by being supportive and loving.

The main goal of forming an identity is for a teenager to gain a clear sense of who they are. Forming an identity is done by exploring different “roles” in various settings like the home, school, work and other social settings. During the process of developing a sense of self, a teen may wind up experimenting with drugs and alcohol. While trying to learn how to fit in with society, a teenager can feel challenged because they could feel different from others due to culture, ethnic, gender or sexual identity.

Sexual Health and Body Image

Teenagers who do not have an understanding or knowledge about sexual health or who do not feel supported by their parents will have a harder time fitting in. As a result, these teens are more likely to engage in risk-taking behavior, experience unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. These youngsters are also more likely to use drugs or alcohol to improve their self-esteem and may perform poorly in school. One of the most important things any parent can do for their teenager is to talk with them openly and nonjudgmentally about sex.

Drug and Alcohol Experimentation

It is not uncommon for teenagers to start experimenting with drugs and/or alcohol. Unfortunately, many youth are not able to see the link between their current behavior and long-term consequences. Drug use can be extremely problematic in the teen years because it may increase the risks of accidents and dangerous behaviors that could come back to haunt the teen later in life. Engaging in risk taking behavior is occurring at an earlier age and the use of alcohol and/or drugs during high school is quite frequent.

How to Help Your Child

Many of us are able to look back and remember our teen years as a time of fun and happiness. However, there can also be a sense of relief at having it be over with and never having to go through it again. Growing up can be an exciting time, but with it can come anxiety and identity issues. As a parent, you can be caring, accepting and understanding of what your child is going through, because it will help to ensure the transition into adulthood is much easier.