10 Steps to Teach Your Teens to Be Authentic: A Parent's Guide

Jun 21 / Michelle Arseneault
Raising teens is often an adventure, to say the least. Amidst the swirl of schoolwork, hormones, sports, and social media, it's easy to lose sight of one crucial element: authenticity. But no worries, you've got this, and we're here to help. Below is a guide on how to help your teens learn to be authentic. It's a journey for sure, but one worth taking.
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1. Encourage Self-Reflection

Encourage your teens to spend some time in self-reflection. The teen years are a time of tremendous growth and discovery, and having a keen sense of self is a crucial part of this journey. Encourage your teen to keep a journal, write poetry, create art, or even just take quiet walks to think. It's during these moments that teens can really explore who they are and what they value.
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2. Model Authenticity

Your teens will learn about authenticity primarily from watching you. Remember, actions speak louder than words! Model the behavior you'd like to see. Be honest about your feelings, take responsibility for your mistakes, and show integrity in your actions. For instance, if you mess up something at home, openly admit it to your teen. Show them that it's okay to be human, to be imperfect, and that accepting this is a part of being authentic.
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3. Emphasize Individuality

When it comes to authenticity, it’s all about being true to oneself. Encourage your teens to embrace their individuality. Teach them that it’s okay to have their own interests, even if they're not "popular." Let's take the example of BTS, the global sensation and K-Pop boy band.

BTS didn't achieve its unprecedented global success by merely blending into the music industry landscape. Instead, they paved their own path by sticking to their unique style and presenting themselves authentically. They sing about mental health, societal pressures, and personal struggles, topics often considered taboo in mainstream pop music. They're not afraid to share their own stories and experiences, and their fans, known as the ARMY, resonate deeply with their honesty and authenticity.

Use BTS as an example to illustrate that being oneself, and expressing individual thoughts, ideas, and emotions, even when they are not part of the mainstream, can lead to success and, more importantly, self-fulfillment.
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4. Open Communication

Authenticity stems from honesty. Create a home environment where open and honest communication is encouraged. Let your teens know they can discuss their feelings, ideas, and concerns with you without judgment. By fostering this openness, you teach your teens that their voices matter, and in turn, help build their confidence in expressing their authentic selves.
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5. Teach Them to Embrace Failure

A crucial part of being authentic is learning to handle failure. Teach your teens that failure is not a dead-end but a stepping stone to success. Reinforce the idea that everyone, even the most successful, has faced failure at some point. Show them that it's not about the fall, but how you pick yourself up that defines you. This approach to failure can teach your teen to be authentic, even in adversity, and learn to turn their setbacks into comebacks.
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6. Encourage Healthy Peer Relationships

Peer pressure can often cause teens to lose their authenticity. Encourage your teens to choose friends who appreciate them for who they are. Foster the understanding that a true friend will not require them to compromise their values or be someone they're not.

Fostering authenticity in teens is about helping them discover who they are, accepting and loving that person, and expressing that self to the world with confidence. It's about encouraging them to be their genuine selves, without pretense or the need to fit into someone else's mold.
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7. Appreciate Their Authenticity

Your teen's authentic self might be very different from who you expected them to be, and that's okay. They might have different beliefs, interests, or ambitions. Learn to appreciate and celebrate these differences. Show them that it's okay to be unique and that you love and accept them as they are. This not only strengthens your bond but also bolsters their confidence to continue being true to themselves.
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8. Teach Them the Importance of Authenticity Online

In the digital age, it's also important to discuss authenticity online. Teach your teens that while it's natural to want to present their best selves on social media, it should never involve creating a false persona. Remind them that the number of likes or followers does not define their worth and that it's more important to use these platforms to connect with others genuinely and responsibly.
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9. Prioritize Values over Perfection

Help your teen understand that authenticity is not about being perfect, but about staying true to their values. Make it a habit to talk about family values and how they apply to various situations in life. Demonstrating how you apply your values in your actions, and praising your teen when they do the same, can reinforce the importance of values-based living.
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10. Give Them Space

Lastly, give your teens the space to figure things out for themselves. While your guidance is crucial, they also need room to make their own decisions, mistakes, and discoveries. This is an important part of their journey to authenticity.

Remember, your teen's authenticity journey is also your journey. There will be bumps along the way, but the destination is worthwhile. After all, authenticity is about embracing who we are, flaws and all, and sharing that self with the world.

By following these steps, you're not just raising your teen to be authentic, but you're also fostering self-esteem, resilience, and a deeper parent-child bond. And above all, remember that your authentic teen is becoming an authentic adult—a person of character, integrity, and originality. Now, isn't that something to be proud of?
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