Self-discovery is the mission of every adolescent’s journey from childhood to adulthood. A strong identity helps tweens and teens develop self-awareness, self-regulation skills and confidence, and it guides them to make healthier choices and to grow into resilient adults. How can parents and caregivers make sure young people get the most out of their self-discovery journey? Here are our top five tips:

1. Foster a spirit of adventure.

Self-discovery is a creative process, and, like all creative work, it can be messy. Tweens and teens experiment by trying on identities, interests, and groups until they figure out what fits. They may proclaim that they’re passionate about something today and hate it tomorrow: One mom we know bought her 13-year-old a ukulele that she’d begged for for months, only to find it two weeks later under a pile of laundry. If you have a tween or teen in your life, you’re probably not surprised. Just remember that new experiences are how adolescents gather information about themselves and the world. When the adults who love them celebrate exploration as part of the adventure of growing up, tweens and teens feel safe expressing themselves.

2. Dial down the pressure.

Adolescents today face unprecedented pressure, according to a 2021 report by the U.S. Surgeon General, and it’s a contributing factor in skyrocketing rates of depression, anxiety and self-harm. Parents and caregivers should know that self-discovery can’t be rushed. Tweens and teens need time to master different developmental milestones, and everyone matures at their own pace. Keep the focus on providing opportunities balanced by safety and clear expectations, and ensuring that they have plenty of freedom to explore within age-appropriate limits.

3. Keep brain development in mind.

Tweens and teens are neurologically wired to take risks and seek out novel experiences, and they’re still learning critical self-regulation skills. Adolescence lasts until the mid-twenties when the prefrontal cortex reaches maturity, according to Sarah Jayne Blakemore, PhD. That part of the brain is responsible for reasoning, planning, prioritizing, and impulse control. Lucero’s approach is to gamify the journey of self-discovery and integrate self-regulation skills at every step. It keeps self-discovery fun and engaging, while making it easy to build lasting healthy habits for self-care.

4. Encourage them to ask questions and be curious.

We live in a world where opinions are often presented as facts, especially on social media. Tweens and teens are especially vulnerable to such influences because their identities are shaped as they process new information, experiences, feelings and beliefs. Relationships with friends and family help them stay grounded and make sense of all the incoming information. Encourage self-reflection by inviting them to ask questions and be curious, talking with them about their feelings and thoughts, and sharing reflective practices like journaling and mindfulness. 

5. Make it safe to say “no.”

One often-neglected aspect of self-discovery is the skill of setting boundaries. “Personal boundaries are important because you set basic guidelines of how you want to be treated,” says Dr. Tracy Hutchinson. “It is your job to teach (others) about your boundaries for your own mental health and wellness.” Parents and caregivers can help tweens and teens get comfortable saying “no” and protecting their developing sense of self. As adolescents explore the world, knowing that they’re in charge of their boundaries helps them advocate for themselves with confidence.

Want more self-discovery support for your tween or teen? Lucero helps adolescents  build a strong sense of self with fun, engaging tools to explore their inner and outer worlds. All our content is created by licensed clinical therapists and a team of youth advisors. Our gamified, bite-sized approach to self-discovery makes it easy for tweens and teens to develop self-awareness and learn emotional regulation skills, all while strengthening their network of real-life relationships.

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