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Initiation into manhood/womanhood: Rites of Passage

April 27th, 2009 / 10 Comments

The title Rites of Passage, sounds strange, doesn’t it? Let me give you a little background.

Just yesterday, my sister-in-law asked me for some ideas to transition her daughter from elementary school to junior high school next year.

Wow! It’s hard to believe my little niece is going to junior high!! This is a big deal, not just going to a new and bigger school after years of familiarity at the elementary school of “little” kids, but it’s a new stage of life.

The hormones, the identity issues, the greater independence, the decisions for the future all begin to happen as our kids as they enter the teen years of junior high school.

How can we prepare them?

We begin today with a series of 3 posts by Pete Aldin.  He speaks from his experience as a dad of 2 boys and as a professional as a life coach.  Pete is the founder of Great Circle – life coaching focusing on communication and motivation.

I’ll let Pete explain this thing called Rites of Passage.

When you hear such terms, you might imagine a bunch of guys running around some woods, wearing loin cloths or fake camouflage outfits, making fires and killing squirrels or kangaroos to roast over them.

You might think, Bar Mitzvah. (Or Bat Mitzvah if you have a daughter)

You might hear such terms and simply think  “Huh?”

In the modern Western civilization we are fairly ambivalent about children growing up, about what it means to be an adult. I won’t even get into the whole topic of “What it means to be aman”.

Over the past couple of centuries we’ve seen the emergence of an artificial lifeform: the teenager. I say artificial because I mean that human beings before the industrial revolution and even up to World War 2 didn’t have teenagers. Yes, there were young people. No, people didn’t skip from the age of twelve to the age of twenty. What did happen was that at around a certain age, children became a young man, a young woman; there was no purgatory of being in-between the two.

Now that doesn’t mean there was no such thing as adolescence per se. Physically, psychologically, emotionally, there has always been a life stage which I guess is known as youth. But think about all the negative ideas that come to mind when you hear ‘teenager’: rebellion, defiance, depression, withdrawal, disconnection with parents, adolescent angst (if you read the right poetry and song lyrics).

Some of these things are physically-based due to the massive changes happening in a young person’s body/brain chemistry and structure. But as a ten year veteran of youth ministry and a father of a 13 year old boy … ooops …man, I also recognize that these negative things are exacerbated and sometimes caused by a lack of two things.

First, solid mentoring that empowers the young person to navigate this difficult territory with a sense of security and even adventure.

Second, something that brings closure to their childhood and unlocks the potentials of adulthood for them.
Let’s chew on those thoughts a bit. Do you agree that the teenage years are sort of purgatory? My teenage years certainly was! I wouldn’t want to relive junior high!

What are your thoughts about the artificial lifeform?

Tomorrow, Pete will continue this series and begin with that second point something that brings closure to their childhood and unlocks the potentials of adulthood.

(Read Part II)

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  1. […] is the third and last in the series we started on Monday on Rites of […]

  2. […] Early this week, Pete Aldin guest posted a series on Initiation into Manhood/Womanhood: Rites of Passage. […]

  3. […] Pete at Freaked Out Fathers referred to a list of age-appropriate chores. That’s a good start. […]

  4. I told Pete this already, but it wasn’t until I was 33 and bought my own house that I actually felt like an adult. We are sorely lacking a transition in western society-with the exception of the Jewish Bar Mitzva.

    I think teenagers in someways recognize this, many carry the expectation that they are adults and try emulating what they think are “adult” actions. However, many aren’t prepared for those actions and it lands them in all kinds of trouble.

  5. I’m late to the conversation again. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t properly mentored as a teen.

    Pete got me thinking about these things a year or so ago. Since that time, I’ve had a couple of conversations with my 14-yr-old boy about what it means to be a man.

    I don’t exaggerate when I say the kid is hungry for such instruction. Thanks, Pete. And thanks, AIP, for helping to bring more attention to this important subject.

  6. Jonathan, thanks for your thoughtful comment. Unfortunately, teens usually emulate the “adult” behaviors of independence and freedom without shouldering the responsibilities.

  7. Joe, maybe it’s not too late yet to have a mentor!

    Just recently at my church, I was able to help encourage mentoring relationships for 3 boys with 2 young adult men. I pray that it works out well.

  8. Except that I’m no longer a teen, Katy. Or wait…maybe I am… 🙂

    On a related note, don’t you think today’s male mentor (the tribal elder, as it were) needs some training? I suspect most men today wouldn’t have clue #1 about what an adolescent boy needs to learn in transition, much less how to go about teaching it to him.

  9. Of course we are all young at heart! My 86 year old dad told me that he is just beginning to feel old…

    Getting training is a good point, Joe. I am thinking that the tribal elder mentors with his life experiences. The qualifications of a mentor would be one who has learned from his mistakes, and is continually striving to please God.

  10. Joe, just chucking in a small comment about your mentor-training thought. I’m running some workshops with a local church over the next two weekends on just that topic, helping some baby boomers become more intentional and confident at mentoring young people. So yeah, I think we need to re-engage and retrain in something that used to come naturally to human beings…

    And I chuckled at your “maybe I’m still a teenager” comment. I get it.


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