Identity is an important element of what makes us who we are. Think about identity and how we want to define ourselves and our families as we go into 2021.
Ask yourself – How does society define you? How does your family of origin define you? How does your body image, sexuality, political orientation and gender define you? Or NOT define you? What tools and techniques can we use to find our identity?
Our clinician team offers some great insight to offer on the importance of identity.
I was once asked to participate in an activity where I was given a stack of index cards and prompted to write one identity per notecard. Since, like all people, I am made up of many identities, I began writing: Mother, School Counselor, Therapist, Woman, Jewish… The facilitator then asked the group to select one of the identities and discard it. The room filled with murmurs and sighs – almost unanimously people stated that they were unable to select one of their identities that they would willingly be able to part with. The activity sparked meaningful conversation around personal identity. We discussed identities we selected/created for ourselves as well as identities that society shapes. (Social identities are ones that are created, named, framed, and defined by society, often one dominant culture, and express how you relate to other people in that society. Some examples of social identity categories are socio-economic status, race, and ability.) As adults, this was a challenging and meaningful exploration.
Of course, since I work with children and families, I connected that experience to the power of working with clients to explore their identity. I am not alone in seeing the value of identity exploration. The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) lists self-awareness as one of the five core competencies for social-emotional learning. CASEL defines self-awareness as “the ability to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts. This includes capacities to recognize one’s strengths and limitations with a well-grounded sense of confidence and purpose.
I encourage you to take the time to think about what makes you, well, you and celebrate yourself. I just know that you are awesome!
Identity is a particularly important topic as your kids begin middle school and high school. In fact, when looking atErickson’s 8 stages of development, the Identity versus Role Confusion stage occurs during the ages of 12 to 19. It then makes sense that during this time you notice that your teenager may try out different clothes, hairstyles, and even venture into body piercings. Although this can be terrifying and disorienting to witness as a parent, identity exploration is a critical part of development for your teenager.
While your teenager is exploring different forms of identity through appearance, friends, activities, and music make sure to have continual conversations about the choices your teen is making to express themselves. You might ask, are these forms of self-expression healthy? Do any of these forms of expression give off unintended or negative messages that your teen is unaware of? If so, use it as a moment to educate, but also critically listen to your teen without judgement.
If your teen is reading a particular book, watching a show, or listening to music that you are unfamiliar with – read, watch, and listen alongside them. You may be pleasantly surprised at the conversations these activities spark between you and your teen, and it also a chance to get to know your everchanging child as they grow into an adult.
Having celebrated a different “thanksgiving” and a year to remember, recognizing who YOU are is probably more important than ever.
Until next time, Be Wise!
“Dr. Amy is like Oprah – she’s the neighbor you love who is very, very smart”— Parent of 14-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter
“We read through your website from start to finish and were so impressed by your extensive credentials and training but, the real reason why we want to work with you is your clear enthusiasm for children and families and the wisdom and deep love you share for both!”— Mom of 12-year-old child with special needs
“Dr. Amy brings together the best emotion-focused strategies with cutting-edge brain science to change the lives of children and families”— Parent of adopted twin girls