Who Am I? The Task of the Teenager

We think we know our children. In fact, sometimes I am convinced that I know my three teenagers better than they know themselves. But, the truth is they are morphing in front of my eyes. Their identity is not fixed and is actually quite fluid as they struggle and work at figuring out who they are and what sort of adults they want to be.

Maybe answering the question, “Who Am I?” is never completely accomplished. I know that I am constantly re-evaluating who I am, what I stand for, and what purpose my life has. But, I really see it playing out with my teenagers. As they attach themselves to one peer group and then make a surprising shift to hang out with very different people. The need to label and identify everything and everyone is another interesting reality of the teen years–every clique has a label, every behavior and characteristic seems to fit in one category or another. It’s fascinating watching as my teens move through different phases and try out various identities in the search to find the core of who they are.

I was chatting with a man at the passport office recently who told me that his three grown kids had always known what they wanted to do. It struck me as interesting because I see the fluctuating and wondering going on with my own children. There are so many choices and realities that they are sifting through. Even my eldest daughter, who seems pretty sure of where she wants to go to college and what she wants to study in a year’s time–has acknowledged that there are so many options she isn’t entirely convinced that she has her plans set. This seems right and appropriate to me for the teen years–I remember trying to figure out for myself the answer to the question, “Who am I?” As a matter of fact, I think I’m still working on that one!

See Also: Who Are You Supposed to Be Today? Teenagers and Identity

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