The way people feel about themselves can fluctuate with circumstances.
Depending on what is happening, you may feel confident or unsure, optimistic or pessimistic, in control or not in control.
More important is what a person's identity is like most of the time. People who have a strong, positive sense of self maintain these qualities even when difficulties arise. They continue to be hopeful and optimistic, and believe they can make a difference.
The more young people have a sense of power, purpose, worth, and promise, the more likely they are to grow up healthy. We'll explore over the next four weeks four aspects of positive identity that are crucial for helping young people: Personal Power, Self-Esteem, Sense of Purpose, and Positive View of Personal Future.
Although identity is partially determined by genetics, adults can bring out the best in young people. The way you interact with young people helps them to feel loved or unloved, liked or disliked. Further, the ways you respond to successes, mistakes, actions, and words helps build a sense of either a positive or negative identity.
Begin by supporting young people and showing them you care. A young person who feels loved, supported, and nurtured is more likely to feel good about herself or himself. It's also important to help young people feel empowered by allowing them to experience self-reliance, responsibility, and opportunities to make meaningful contributions.
Appreciate each young person for who he or she is.
Have each member of your family answer these questions: What three things do you like about yourself? Why? Discuss the answers and different ways for each of you to help build one another's self-esteem.
When you see, hear, or read good things about a young person you know, write a note of congratulations to him or her.
Help your child create a life-planning scrapbook that covers their experiences from the end of one school year to the beginning of the next school year, and include goals, dreams, and hopes. They can be an important tool for the student to keep track of accomplishments and challenges.
Interested in learning more? The Exchange Club of Warren has made available at every public library in the county some great books about helping young people develop positive identities, including Connect 5: Finding the Caring Adults You May Not Realize Your Child Needs, Hey Coach, and Just When I Needed You: True Stories of Adults Who Made a Difference in the Lives of Young People.
I.F. Eastman, M.A., coordinates Healthy Communities-Healthy Youth of Warren County on behalf of Family Services. This article was adapted from Instant Assets, published by Search Institute.