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November 2, 2015

Fitting in, or standing out?

shutterstock_267033818The young always have the same problem–how to rebel and conform at the same time. They have now solved this by defying their parents and copying one another.

(Quentin Crisp)

We therapists can sometimes overcomplicate things. Perhaps it’s our painful experience with the complex family dynamics of our clients. Or perhaps it’s our need to validate our own education and appear smart. (Yours truly, guilty as charged.)

But coming up with simpler explanations of complex relationship truths is, I believe, one of the things the world needs most. And I have found very few examples of this better than Mr. Crisp’s quote above. In one sentence, he has captured beautifully the delicate moves our teens must dance on the tightrope of adolescence:

How do I fit in with a crowd that makes me feel like I belong?
How do I stand out, on my own, as an individual in charge of my own life?

Next time you see your teen following a funky fad, remember their desire to fit in. You may easily ridicule your son’s man-bun (as I do my son’s), knowing he’ll probably regret the pics later, but it’ll be the same harmless way I regret my Thriller jacket with a million zippers (it was awesome).

At the same time, next time you feel your teen pulling away from you, or openly pushing you away, remember her desire to stand out, on her own two feet. You have been, by far, the most influential shaping force in her life up to this point—it makes perfect sense she would want to resist that influence a little now in order to show you, and herself, that she has a budding future on her own.

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