Through counseling, it is possible to help your teen through this difficult stage of achieving a positive sense of identity they need to move forward.Achieving a positive sense of identity is the major challenging task of adolescents. Somewhere between childhood and maturity, there is an acceleration of physical and emotional growth, and in turn, the adolescent becomes a stranger to themselves. Under attack by an arsenal of fiery hormones, the bewildered adolescent begins to ask “Who am I?”
The achievement of a meaningful answer to the identity issue is the greatest challenge of adolescents. The adolescent gains a sense of control by knowing who they are that allows them to navigate through the rest of life. Without identities, awkward adolescents carry a “How am I doing?” attitude that is always focused on their concern about the impression they are making on others. Without self-identities, they will be or do whatever they think others want. They will flounder from one way of acting to another, never able to step outside of a preoccupation with their own performance and genuinely ask others “How are you doing?”
The successful formation of self-identity follows a typical pattern. Teens identify with people they admire. Whether in real life or through magazines and TV, they emulate the characteristics of people they want to be like. By the end of adolescence, if all goes as it should, these identifications merge into a unique and coherent whole.
The quest for identity is scary. Somewhere between twelve and twenty years of age, adolescents are forced to choose once and for all what their identity is to be. It is a formidable task. Uncertain which of their mixed emotions are really their true feelings; they are pushed to make up their minds. Their confusion is complicated further when they begin to guess what others, whose opinions they care about, want them to be.
The establishment of a personal identity is not easy. The adolescent may regress into a childish state and thus avoid having to make decisions on confusing issues. Other adolescents express their confusion through premature commitments and impulsive actions. They give themselves to poorly thought-out ways being and end up fighting needless battles.
It is difficult to predict exactly how a specific adolescent will attempt to manage his or her problems. A number of personality traits and environmental factors influence the struggling adolescent’s coping style. There are, however, at least three common ways young people contend with their struggles. They will repress them, act them out, or work them through.
Many adolescents cope with difficulties by keeping them to themselves. This repression – pushing thoughts, feelings impulses, desires, or memories out of the mind, is very common.
Some adolescents cope with struggles by acting out – expressing their feelings through impulsive actions to reduce tension. The anxiety they feel about failing a class, for example, is temporarily released through skipping classes, harassment, or vandalism. The tension they feel over not being accepted by their peers may be acted out through sexual promiscuity. Another common way of warding off uncomfortable emotions is through denial – refusing to accept reality.
Adolescents who hide their struggles and the ones who act them out have at least one characteristic in common. Both are avoiding responsibility – the freedom consciously to choose their actions and attitudes. Both are hung up, on some level, on thinking that says, “Why don’t they …?” In other words, both suffer from a tendency to wonder why others do not resolve their own problems. This lack of responsibility is the central cause of adolescents’ struggles and even juvenile delinquency.
By holding their struggles in, or acting them out, adolescents avoid having to confront them head-on. It’s not that they do not have the capacity to take responsibility. Adolescents are capable of understanding the present and imagining the future. They can think abstractly and consider the consequences of their actions. Adolescents have the capacity to say, “The trouble with me is me, and I am going to do something about it.”
Who can benefit from Identity Issues Counseling?
Adolescence can be a difficult time for teens and their families. It is appropriate for teenagers to establish their own identity in order to successfully find their way in the world. Some teens can achieve this with little difficulty. However, most teens experience some adjustment problems. If a teen is anxious or depressed, he or she may isolate themselves from the family and self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Some teens avoid problems and create new ones through overuse of the computer and internet. It is important to give them the place to share feelings and doubts.
Counseling can help the adolescent feel better about themselves and learn to deal directly with the challenges of growing up. On the other hand, some teens may be angry and rebellious. They can bully other kids or create conflicts within the family. Signs of dating violence may also be a concern. Identity Issues Counseling can help teens express anger more appropriately and learn to treat others with kindness and respect.
Teenagers may seek counseling on their own for support and guidance. More often, teens come for counseling at the urging of school or concerned parents. Through the therapeutic relationship, teens can learn to express their feelings constructively, and utilize effective problem-solving skills which in turn will repair family relationships and help them make a healthy adjustment to adulthood.
When to seek Counseling
If you believe, or those around you believe, that your child’s symptoms may be impairing his/her life in troubling ways, then it may be time to seek help. There are treatments available to assist in managing symptoms and improving his/her quality of life, contact us for a free consultation.