Identity Discovery Mode Confuses Teenagers

Teenagers seeking their own pathways in life may not be as confused, as some adults seem to portray them. In fact, teenagers, who adults suggest are confused, may actually be trying to discover and assert their own identities.

Identity is an important issue for teenagers, as each one needs to take a strong stand with regard to who he or she is, in relation to others, including his or her parents, other family members and friends.

After all, it is not very long until the teenagers in question will become adults, who have identities of adults.

That is not always going to be an easy transition for either the parents or the teenagers!

Parents can have extremely high expectations of their teenagers and may become extremely demanding of them. For example, a parent may expect only adult level, mature behavior from a very young teenager. The severe demands of the parents may confuse a teenager, who may protest by stating, “But I am still a teenager.”

This does not mean that the teenager is confused, but merely that he or she is in his or her normal identity role stage, for that particular age group. He or she associates his or her identity with his or her own, unique peer group.

At times, the activities, or behaviors of some teenagers may be entirely different from the parent’s expectations of them.

“When we were your age, this is what was expected of us,” parents may state. That may be the reality of their teenage years.

“But this is a different age,” the teenager, who is perceived as not living up to the parents expectations of him or her, may argue. In this case, he or she is probably right.  

Some parents who do not understand teenagers, or what is happening with them in their own era, may regard their teenagers, or even all teenagers, as being confused. The teenagers in question may not be confused at all. They are merely teenagers in discovery mode, trying to find their individual identities.

In order to try to resolve this kind of a scenario, it is important for parents to be in touch with teenagers, or perhaps more teenagers.

This is possible in many different ways.

Parents who participate in group activities, where there are other parents and teenagers,  tend to be more understanding as they are in constant contact with teenagers, on their own level. They understand many teenager’s lifestyles, as well as their way of thinking and expressing themselves.

Those parents who teach teenagers, on a regular basis, also tend to be more lenient towards them, as they see the teenagers within the actual context of their day-to-day lives. Like an adult, each teenager is a unique and special person.

Any parents who invite teenagers into their homes on a regular basis, along with other family members, soon get to see how those teenagers function in terms of their own families. They may be shocked and not always approve of what is happening, in terms of inter-personal relationships, but they may understand why those particular teenagers appear to be confused.

Role confusion during the teen years has a lot to do with the ego and each one’s perception of the self. Many teenagers tend follow the examples set by their parents. These may not always be good examples; they may not be easy examples to follow, either.

Recognizing that a teenager is identifying himself or herself with a parent, who is not setting a good example, leaves the doorway open for setting a better example.

Teenagers need to know that they can assert their individual identities, wherever they are, without subjection to relentless criticism and severe judgment, by others. They are not ever going to be exact, carbon copies of their parents. In fact, it would impossible to become a perfect carbon copy of them, in terms of identity.

Each teenager is a unique individual, pursuing his or her own individual pathway of identity discovery.

Parents often need to seek professional counseling, along with their teenagers, in order to understand why their teenagers appear to be confused. The teenagers may not be confused at all. A psychologist, school guidance counselor, teacher or medical professional may be able to help parents and teenagers engaged in conflict.

Are teenagers confused? That is not necessarily the case, even though it may appear that way, at times.

Are the parents confused? That is not necessarily true either.

Identifying inappropriate activities and behaviors may prove to be one of the keys to resolution, but severe reprimands are not always the answer, as the teenagers may simply rebel. Spending time talking, playing, or even working with teenagers, can be beneficial to both parents and teenagers. Many issues can be resolved, in different, positive and constructive ways, although it is not necessarily easy for either of them.

Love of parents for their teenagers and teenagers for their parents, allows room for tolerance and growth of personal identity. Be aware that effective resolution may take time and a lot of patience might be required, on both sides.