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Developing identity

Identity is what makes us who we are and we start forming this from an early age. It’s a very important aspect of our lives, helping us connect with others and ‘find our tribe’. It includes our characteristics at birth like our gender and physical features as well as social aspects including family, friends, music, clothes, our location and religion.

Identity is developed initially through play, with children trying to gain a sense of self as they associate with those around them. Positive interactions with caregivers help young people grow in confidence, and establish positive self-esteem. As children get older and more independent, their identity grows with them, influences coming from a wider range of places. Groups and clubs can help to widen the experience for young people, and may help them to develop a social identity.

Some children are very worried about what others think of them, leading to feelings of confusion and damage to self-confidence. Be aware of the content your child is viewing online. Limit exposure if you feel it is having a detrimental effect. Talk to them about how they are feeling and the person they believe they are or want to be. Encourage them to take part in activities that promote self-esteem and increase positive peer relationships.

For families who might need further support

Some children and young people need further support as they grow and develop their identity.

There is some evidence to show a link between gender dysphoria and autism, and that autistic people may be more likely than other people to have gender dysphoria. Visit for more information and support.

Kent School Health offers one-to-one support based on your child’s unique needs. Visit our special educational needs or neurodivergence pages for more information on the support available for you and your child.

Useful information

The Proud Trust has information and advice for LGBTQ+ young people.