Adolescence is the time of identity development, when relationships and school identities contribute in different ways. As adolescence proceeds, thoughts about relationships increase, prospects about college emerge, and thoughts formalize about occupational choices. One significant differentiating characteristic between childhood and adolescence lies within the realm of friends and peers. As the role of parents as primary caregivers starts to fade, peers begin to replace parents as the most important reference point in their lives.

Although many parents have negative reactions to the word “teenager,” parents must remember the major task for adolescents is to reevaluate who they are and how their bodies and identities have changed. They strive to establish final independence from their families and others their age to become their own person. They struggle to understand the meaning of life and how to interact with others of the opposite sex. They are faced with answering the question of how they want to spend the rest of their lives or if they are going to prepare for college or directly enter an occupation. How they see themselves strongly influences their options for their future. They strongly desire group acceptance more so than the middle years and become aware of their insecurities. Teenagers are faced with group pressures, such as conforming to group opinions in order to “fit in.” Withstanding some group pressures comes easier for adolescents who feel they are more adequate and worthier, which demonstrates their level of confidence in themselves. Parents must remember that intense rebellion and disrespect is not necessarily a part of adolescence, but a cry for independence. As parents prepare for their children to progress into adulthood and leave the home, they should be encouraged to see themselves first as individuals and second as parents, again reinforcing their sense of autonomy and self-esteem.


Symptom Checklist For Parents

  • Does your child put himself down constantly?
  • Does your child exert minimal effort toward tasks because he doubts he can be successful?
  • Does your child act shy around others?
  • Is your child overly dependent on you to take care of him?
  • Does your child worry things will not work out?
  • Is your child afraid to try new tasks?
  • Does your child feel overwhelmed by school and life?
  • Is your child pessimistic about the future?
  • Does your child compare himself to others and feel inadequate?
  • Would your child like to be someone else?
  • Does your child constantly doubt he can achieve anything?
  • Does your child take things out on others?
  • Does your child lose his temper easily?
  • Does your child constantly argue about trivial issues?
  • Does your child think he is unimportant?

If you answered “yes” to many of these questions, your child is most likely experiencing self-esteem difficulties and would benefit from interventions targeted toward increasing his sense of self and outlook on life. Recommended interventions include utilizing professional services for individual or family counseling, group therapy, and parent workshops.

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