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Identity Development

Individuals are fully engaged in forming their own personal identities during the college years. This process includes becoming separate persons within their family with regard to creating their own value systems, spiritual beliefs, tastes in clothing, music and friends, and making other very personal choices. When adolescents make choices that run counter to the values and beliefs of their parents, conflict can occur within the family. Yet, this process of carving out their own separate identity is a normal and very necessary part of their lifelong growth and development. One must separate from the roots in order to take the wings of flight. Parents can assist this difficult transition to 'owned' beliefs, values, and personal identity in several ways-some of which may make you feel a bit uneasy and uncomfortable.

Be tolerant of lifestyle choices your student makes as long as they are not clearly self-destructive.

Keep criticism to a minimum. Your student needs and craves your approval and acceptance now more than ever, even if he or she seems not to care. Be aware that negative words from you are taken very much to heart and that excessive criticism damages self-esteem.

Allow your son or daughter to make mistakes. To err is human and is an essential part of the growing process. Let your child know that you do not consider mistakes to be disastrous, and that you have made mistakes too.

Give your daughter or son as much freedom as possible, even if that makes you feel uncomfortable. We all want to protect our children, but that is not always in their best interest. Going out with friends, staying out late at night, making interesting choices and experiencing their natural consequences are all part of the process of growing up.

Give your son or daughter "permission" to separate from you. Holding on and trying to protect them from life will not help them to become responsible adults or to develop their own sense of competence.

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