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How Adolescents Search for Identity

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Some teenagers do some crazy things to try and find their identity. They sign up for every sports team and get no sleep. They have a different boyfriend every week. They dye their hair pink, buy expensive clothes they secretly hate, and they even try out for the lead role in the school play. Basically, they search for identity in tons of embarrassing ways. So be aware of these 7 common paths your adolescent is sure to explore as they begin searching for their identity from Dr. Les Parrott’s book Helping the Struggling Adolescent : A Guide to Thirty-six Common Problems for Counselors, Pastors and Youth Workers.

One common way teens search for identity is through status. They buy certain clothes or cars or computers in order to feel like they belong to a specific group. The best remedy for attempting a materialistic identity? Remind your teen that what matters most is who they are, not what they have.

Family Relations

Our teens want to be loved uniquely. So oftentimes, our kids take on specific family identities in order to stand out. I saw this recently in a friend’s family: her oldest daughter played the academic, her son played the comedian, and her youngest daughter played the athlete. While unique recognition is great from time to time, be sure never to identify your child by one attribute. Instead, acknowledge their success across the board.

“Grown Up” Behavior

For some reason, teens are always in a hurry to grow up. They turn to alcohol, drugs, sex, and the like in order to feel more “grown up.” But the truth is that these behaviors prove your teen’s immaturity. Instead, help them define maturity as accepting their station in life and acting appropriately.


If you have a teenager, chances are you’ve dealt with rebellion. This is because part of the search for their identity leads them to question authority—which often leads to disrespecting authority. But instead of lashing out and creating further distance between you and your teen, reason through their rebellion with them. Remind them that you are always on their side and striving for their good.

Others’ Opinions

All adolescents crave affirmation. They want to be told they’re smart and brave and impressive. But when they don’t receive this positive affirmation, it can be detrimental to their sense of identity. They’ll begin giving into peer pressure and strive after impossible perfection. The solution? Help your teen find their value in God’s eyes alone. You’ll also want to look at these 5 challenges adolescents face.


Taylor Swift. Tom Brady. Emma Watson. Teens idolize the heck out of people like these…dressing like them, acting like them and basically wanting to be them. When adolescents adopt identities that they know are popular, they assume popularity will come for them, too. But as parents, our job is to remind our teens that role models are meant to be admired—not replicated.

Cliquish Exclusion

Finally, we find many teens searching for their identity in cliquish exclusion. When they see a person dress, talk, or act in a way they don’t approve, they’re quick to separate themselves—often at the expense of that peer’s feelings. So what’s the solution? Remind your teen that everyone wants to feel included because everyone is struggling to find their identity, too.

Let’s Talk: How have you helped your teen through an identity crisis?


Who is your biggest role model?

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