Achieving self-identity is a major task facing every teenager. During this stage of life, an adolescent will try to define her identity — often creating one that allows her to fit in with her peers.

Many things influence this developing self-identity, such as television, celebrities and “popular” schoolmates. To gain acceptance, many teens will begin to talk, dress and behave like the people they are trying to emulate.

Everyone wants an identity, and everyone wants to fit in. My question is, “What can parents do to help teens find their own identity?”

From an early age, encourage her to express herself through singing, drawing pictures, using her imagination, playing dress-up, etc. Don’t discourage her creativity — it’s OK if she wears mismatched clothes or even shoes. (Begin to worry if this is still going on at age 13.) Let your kids explore, and help guide them along the way.

In addition, encourage them to make decisions based on what they want, not what others think they should do. This will be important around the middle school years. At 11 to 14 years old, kids begin to follow the crowd to earn acceptance, and many make bad decisions such as drinking and smoking because their peer group is doing it. Remind your kids daily to make the best choices for them, not for others. Again, guide them along the way.

I believe the best way to help your kids find their identity is to remind them daily that they were created by God — the same God who took a blank canvas and created the heavens and earth. The same God who created them to be unique, special and set apart for good things.

I encourage students not to be “followers” or “posers.” Instead, I encourage them to be who God created them to be. This is not easy, and will take time and guidance from parents and other mentors.  You have to be willing to give just enough space for adventure — but not too much space.

Finally, you have to know who you are in God before you can help others know who they can become in God. I write this article today as a 43-year-old pastor, husband, dad, friend and blogger who didn’t fully know who I was until about 10 years ago. I was a follower — a poser of others. It wasn’t until I became a poser for God that I realized who God created me to be: me!

To learn more about how to help your teen discover her self-identity, contact us.