It might seem odd to suggest that teens either fail or succeed in adolescence. However, there is so much at stake during this life stage. In fact, Erik Erikson, the developmental psychologist, saw adolescence as the most pivotal. In addition to the adolescent stage of life, he broke life down into a series eight stages, each of which are difficult conflicts that an individual needs to move through. The successful transition through each stage facilitates the success of future stages in life. A teenager, specifically, is faced with the challenge of finding his or her unique identity among experiences of role confusion, peer pressure, and family tradition.
Erickson explained that teenagers are reaching for their independence, their uniqueness, and the role they will play in life. However, doing this in the midst of other confused teenagers, family conflicts, and the lingering need to hang onto their childhood is the mountain they must climb. Not to mention the temptation for drug use, the pressures of romantic involvement, developing sexual maturity, and maintaining academic success.
In a way, a lot is riding on adolescence. The primary task for a teen is to claim an identity, to search for and find him or herself. To do this, there are some essential tools that might facilitate an ease for teens during this time of their life. These tools include:
Self-Exploration – This is a time for teens to be asking some of the big questions. Doing so could ignite excitement, and hopefully, inspiration too to help create a magnificent vision for life. For instance, some inquiries that teens should ponder on include –
- What am I good at?
- How do others perceive me?
- What will I do in the future?
- What are my personal characteristics?
- What kind of person am I?
Once teens have an idea of who they are, they can begin to ask other big questions such as what they want. With a sense of direction and a sense of self, teens can enter adulthood with some foundation beneath them.
Supportive Parents – Teens are going to be awkward at times. They are going to be odd, perhaps by unrealistic or hypersensitive. Parents can keep it in mind that teens are growing in many various ways – physically, emotionally, intellectually, psychologically, and even spiritually. Parents can be gentle, understanding, and patient when their child says or acts in ways that are uncomfortable.
Furthermore, another very supportive factor for teens is when parents have a strong sense of self-acceptance themselves. If parents have a weak or wobbly foundation for themselves, teens can unconsciously (or consciously) recognize it. When teens see the strengths of their parents, they tend to want to mimic it. They tend to already look up to their parents. And for this reason, when parents exhibit self-love and self-acceptance, it can support the development of an identity in their child.
Social Exploration – Teens are going to explore themselves through the people they spend time with as well as through the people they don’t spend time with. For instance, teens tend to form cliques at school, indicating the type of person they are – and are not. They will also tend to have idols and models, pointing to the type of person they want to be. Lastly, teens will also begin to rebel against their parents which is often a sign of separating from the family and becoming their own person.
What’s important for teens during adolescence is finding who they are. And when teens do not have the opportunity to really know who they are, and more importantly, love who they are can have detrimental effects on their lives. Teens need to work through discovering their unique identity, and by doing so, they will be more equipped to find success in the major life phases that are to come.