6 Common Ways Troubled Teens Display Their Issues with Self-Identity

Teen Struggling With Self Identity
Teenagers often engage in a variety of behaviors as they try to figure out what they want to keep as part of their identity and what doesn’t work. This constant exploration can be funny at times when it leads to silly fads. However, the trouble comes when teens venture into troubling behaviors in their self-discovery.

At our residential treatment center for teenage boys, we have seen countless teen boys struggle with similar issues when it comes to determining their sense of self. To help parents who aren’t sure if what their teen is doing is a sign of a problem, here are six of the most common ways troubled teens display their struggles with self-identity.

1.Opt For Outrageous Or Inappropriate Fashion

While fashion can be important at all ages, some teens use fashion as one of their early tools of self-discovery. It can be comical to see what kinds of fashion statements teens try, and often, they disappear after a few months. However, there can be times when fashion is taken too far.

Choosing clothing with explicit words or graphics can be one way that teens try to set themselves apart from their peers. Other teenagers—particularly teen girls—will opt for revealing clothing to get attention and develop a sexualized sense of identity.

2.Engage In Illegal Activity

There are a number of different illegal activities that teens may engage in to establish self-identity, some being more serious than others. Some common illegal activities are:

  • Shoplifting
  • Vandalism
  • Substance abuse (alcohol, pot, vaping, etc.)
  • Break curfew
  • Simple assault (i.e., fighting at school)
  • Trespassing
  • Skipping school
  • Runaway
  • Generally, teens will not engage in this kind of behavior on their own, which is why it is important that parents be familiar with the kind of kids their teen is hanging out with at school and elsewhere.

    3.Rebel Against Family Standards

    Even teens who aren’t struggling with troubling behavior often go through a phase where they want to create an identity separate from their family. However, for those teenagers who are troubled, rebelling against family standards can be more severe than doing something like cursing or watching movies that they aren’t allowed to see.

    Instead, troubled teens may rebel against family standards either openly—doing things like skipping religious services, dressing differently, not following family rules, etc.—or secretly by doing things like secretly dating someone, sneaking alcohol or other substances, etc.

    4.Create Social Cliques

    Something of a dichotomy, but sometimes teens will try to express their individuality by being part of an exclusive social clique. While it is normal behavior to form a friend group, when that group becomes exclusionary and is used to bully others, that is when the social clique goes too far.

    5.Seek Out Visible Status Symbols

    Teens will also often try to use visible status symbols to help part of their image and identity. It can be things like making sure the clothes they wear have obvious branding—words, icons, stitching—or owning items like a luxury bag or desirable car.

    However, monetarily speaking, not all teens have the money to pursue these visible status symbols. This lack of buying ability can lead teens to engage in other troubled behavior to obtain the items they want.

    6.Idolize Celebrities

    Rather than hunting for their own sense of self, some teens want to skip the work and instead pick someone to emulate. The people that teenagers will often choose to imitate are celebrities—from A-list stars to the latest viral social media star. Many of these people are inappropriate role models, especially digital celebrities who often build their fame on stunts, pranks, and cruel “jokes” that are thinly veiled bullying.

    When teens opt to model their self-identity on others, they lose hold of their actual identity. If your teen starts to act uncharacteristically—i.e., changes their speech, radical shift in dress, etc.—you can bet celebrity idolization is at the root.

    How To Help Your Teen Develop Healthy Self-Identity

    Teens who engage in the more extreme and dangerous forms of self-identity struggles—i.e., substance abuse, delinquency, etc.—can significantly benefit from attending a boarding school for troubled teens where the root of their issues can be addressed.

    But, before you look into troubled teen programs to help your teen, here are some other ways parents can try to help their teens develop a healthy sense of self-identity.

  • Extra-curricular activities- Joining in with sports, academic clubs, and other activities can help teens discover not only what they are good at doing, but also like-minded teens in a safe environment.
  • Hobbies- Like with extra-curricular activities, hobbies can help your teenager build up a healthier idea of who they are and who they can become. From being a creative writer to an aspiring carpenter, the options can be endless.
  • Positive reinforcement- Your teen’s initial efforts to establish a healthy sense of self-identity may be rocky. During which, your support will be invaluable to help your teen continue on the right path.
  • Healthy coping methods- Many troubled teens struggle because they don’t know how to deal with the issues besetting them. While your teen may not exactly tell you what is going on, you can help by teaching them how to deal with things like sadness, anger, disappointment, and tough circumstances appropriately.
  • Should you be interested in Liahona Treatment Center and want to know more about how we can help your teenage son, please contact us today to learn more. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have and help you determine if our program is a good fit for your son’s needs.

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