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Rites of passage, II

April 28th, 2009 / 4 Comments

Yesterday, we started a series on helping our children transition from childhood to manhood/womanhood (a scary thought, I know!).

My guest Pete Aldin began the series with an introduction to the artificial lifeform – the teenager.  He points out that the adolescent angst is often due to a lack of two factors:

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.

In today’s post, Pete tackles the second point first.


Let’s just ponder a couple of thoughts about the second of these. The dividing line between childhood and adulthood. Many commentators (from journalists to psychologists) are saying that the period where young people (particularly men) are living in an adult body (a body capable of making babies) but living with the lack of responsibility and commitment that better suits children is stretching out of the teens and even into the 30s.

One article from seven years ago put it nicely (and I think this is still very current):

“As a result of all this, the 20s are now seen as an extension of ‘youth’ – a time for having fun, studying, taking time out, and only gradually approaching the idea of adulthood: The worst thing about turning 30 is discovering you’re the oldest person in the nightclub.’”

While I am a huge believer is having fun for your whole life and for not piling too much responsibility on kids and young people too early, this whole Peter Pan thing is not healthy. And – dare I say it – it’s unnatural.

Better we let our kids know that somewhere between the ages of 13 and 15, they have entered into the world of Men (for boys) and the world of Women (for girls). For millennia (and still today in many cultures such as the Masai), somewhere in that period, a young person passed through a rite of passage and was initiated into the world of adults.

I’ll recommend some authors to read on that at the end. Suffice to say what they experienced was – first, some challenge or other which showed THEM they had what it takes to be a significant member of their society; second – the significant adults in their life affirming that they had the right stuff, that they were now a full member of society.

What we tend to do with young people is on one hand say “You have some of physical attributes of adults, but you’re still a kid. However, though you’re still a kid, you WILL behave completely responsibly, make decisions that will affect you for the rest of your life … and you will do it right!” … Well, that’s some of us parents.

The other parents are saying to their young people, “Sure go do what you want.” (In other words, make it up as you go along). Neither one of these is very helpful to young people.

Better we have an event which has been built up to perhaps over years – like Jewish Bar Mitzvah – where in community we celebrate the end of a wonderful childhood, we affirm all of the great qualities of the young person to date and encourage them to remain true to those things, we pour out our love and approval on them.

We did this recently with my oldest son as he turned 13. I won’t tell you about it because it’s his life and his story. Suffice to say, it was fantastic. Literally life-changing.

But it doesn’t end there. Tomorrow I will go back to the first point above: mentoring.
What do you think? Have you or anyone you know had a rite of passage that involved a challenge?

Tomorrow, we will conclude with the last part of this series on going from childhood to adulthood.

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  1. Hey there. Came across your link on the Problogger forums and thought I’d stop over. Don’t have time to read your blog right now but thought I’d say Hi and let you know that I’m subscribing in my reader.

    I’m also a SAHM (6 yr old boy w/ autism and almost 2 yr old girl). You can read the Adventues of Mr. Busypants at I also blog about writing, teaching (I teach writing both face-to-face and online) and whatever else might crack people up at The Writer in Me at

    Take care and look forward to checking out your podcasts.


    See ya around.

  2. Jeannie, thanks for coming by. Your sites are good reads. Glad to have you join this community.

  3. […] here to read the first in the series, and click here to read the second in the […]

  4. […] (Read Part II) TagslifeTeenage years […]


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