Teens are busy people. Between school, sports, friends, clubs and other activities, it's a wonder they have time to eat and sleep. Quiet self-reflection is probably the last thing on your teen's mind, but it is an essential part of her transition to mature adulthood. Encourage your child to slow down and develop a sense of self-awareness or an understanding of her personality, beliefs, values, strengths and weaknesses. As with every aspect of parenting, your example is the best teaching tool. Allow your teen to see you engage in introspection and strive for personal improvement.
Provide your teen with a journal. Encourage her to take 10 to 15 minutes every day to record her thoughts, feelings and emotions. Assure her that the journal is for her eyes only. Respect your teen's privacy and resist the urge to read the diary.
Encourage your teen to experiment with the unfamiliar. If your teen is typically a sports jock, suggest that she join a book club or theater group at school. If she spends her free time at the mall, challenge her to spend a weekend camping in the great outdoors. If she is an only child, ask your teen to babysit for a family friend so she can spend time with young children. A novel situation, role or environment will help your teen to discover hidden talents, strengths and traits.
Practice "I" statements. Teenagers often bottle up their emotions and are hesitant to discuss feelings. The next time your teen is upset or angry, calmly encourage her to verbalize her emotions. Prompt her with the statement, "I am angry because..." and allow her to fill in the blank. Encourage her to complete a list of "I am" statements including sentiments such as "I am happy when..." or "I am sad when...."
Share your life story. A large part of self-awareness is the ability to identify individuals and events that played a role in your personal formation. Talk to your teen about your parents, a favorite teacher or a pivotal moment that changed the course of your career. Ask your teen to identify her heroes and share stories of moments that have changed her perspective on life.
Act as a mirror. When your child fails a test or makes a mistake in a relationship, it can be tempting to gloss over her faults in an effort to bolster her self-esteem. However, it's important for teens to be aware of their weaknesses and personal failings in order to grow to mature adulthood. Help your teen assess her shortcomings candidly and suggest ways she can improve her character.
Ask your teen to list her values. If she has difficulty, ask her to consider where she spends her time. For instance, if she puts hours into homework every night, she probably values academic success.
- Psychometric tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can be a useful tool for helping your teen understand herself.
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