Having a strong sense of identity for a child is about learning they are valued and worthy of attention.
Children with a strong sense of identity look for and are open to new challenges.
When children have a strong sense of identity, they ask questions and try new things. They know they can contribute to the world and make a difference. They also persist with things and enjoy their achievements.
Relationships are the foundations for your child’s strong sense of identity. To build a strong sense of identity, your child first has to feel they belong. They learn this through safe and secure relationships – first with their family and later with other caring adults and children. Your child’s identity is also shaped by the ways that you and others respond to them. As they grow, most children show interest in being part of a group and playing with others. They become increasingly confident in different social situations and learn that their actions can have effects on themselves and others. Having a strong sense of identity doesn’t mean you have an outgoing or social personality. A quiet or shy child can also have a strong sense of identity.
Tips on how you can help your child to develop a strong sense of identity
- Value what is unique about your child and accept your child for who they are right now:
- Pay close attention to your child’s attempts to communicate or interact with you – this tells children they are important and valued. Acknowledge what your child says or does without being dismissive or judgmental – this tells them it is safe to express feelings and opinions.
- Encourage your child to make choices and decisions (within appropriate limits). This recognises that your child is able to make decisions.
- When your child says ‘I can do it’ – let them try. Support your child’s efforts to be more independent (while still offering your guidance).
- Encourage your child to solve problems or to keep going when things get tough. This builds your child’s resilience and sense of wellbeing.
- Help your child to learn how to treat others: Give your child time to play alone and time to play with others. Hold back and see if your child can fix their own problems or disagreements (but be ready to step in when they need support). Model care, empathy and respect in your own interactions with children and other adults.
You can read the information we presented to children and young people on Gender and Sexuality Identity on our Childline site here.