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Opinion & Essays - April, 1994 Issue #27 

Fathering the Son to Adulthood
by: Randy Russell, M.S.
Northstar Wilderness Director and Counselor
Bend, Oregon

(Randy custom designs and directs "rites of passage" ceremonies for families of Northstar and Independently.) 

The Northstar Center offers an annual parent workshop to provide parents with both the philosophical and experiential education concerning the transition process of the family as a teenager becomes an adult. The following is a summary of one topic covered during the father's section of the workshop. This portion primarily addresses the father's role with his son. We believe that through building a strong relationship, fathers are able to assist their sons through a more successful and smoother passage into adulthood. 

Western Civilization has evolved to have different values then any of its root cultural influences. Among these is the way in which we recognize the process and passage of life. One of the most important transitions no longer formally celebrated is the passage into adulthood for male and female children. 

The transition into adulthood has become an almost invisible passage. The relationship between father and son has been dramatically affected. The "rites of passage" into adulthood, by cultures that celebrate the transition, officially recognized new, distinct roles and responsibilities for both father and son. No longer is the young male under the "iron rule" of his father. He is now responsible for his own path and reputation. Northstar nurtures this transition process for the son and his family. 

It is in anticipation of adulthood that the father assures that he has established an open and honest communication process with his son. This is the time to share what counselor Fred Gustafson calls "the revelation of masculine mysteries." This can be done over a series of special times together where the father shares his thoughts and philosophies about life, religion, sexuality, friendships, work and all else that he feels is important to living successfully. This is also the time when the father non-judgmentally assists the son in envisioning his possible futures. This process empowers the young man towards his own independence, with the father taking the role of counselor and establishing an adult friendship. 

It is also important for the father to understand what is considered to be the healthy role for the mother during the child's transition into adulthood. This enables the father to provide balance and give support to all members of his family. The mother takes a less impactful role as the young man is acknowledged as an adult. The "apron strings" must be severed. This may be emotionally very difficult. The father's recognition of this process is crucial. 

The implication for the Northstar father is that he must take the leadership role with his son by providing new separation boundaries that pushes the young adult into the responsibilities of adulthood at the optimal rate. Specific strategies end the effects are explored by the fathers in the workshop. We believe that by strengthening the relationship between fathers and sons through personal involvement and not just intellectual process, is the key to successful independence. 

Copyright 1994, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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