In this issue we look at the eighth step of the series for parents on how to empower and launch your child into adulthood.
Enlist support for mentoring your child through adolescence.
Several years ago Hilary Rodham Clinton wrote a book entitled It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us. Clinton recognized the positive and negative influences individuals and groups have on the young minds of children. She advocated that we consciously create villages to support the basic needs of all children so they can grow up healthy and happy. Villages (filled with positive role models) are especially important when it comes to moving a young person through the transition into empowered adulthood.
Parents, schools and churches are the natural support systems for preparing and launching a young adult. These systems may, however, lack the understanding or the agenda to successfully guide this launch. Some young people find support here; others feel lost, down and frightened about growing up. They lack trust in the adults and authorities around them. Some young people may appear to be doing well on the college track but finish college with no direction or training for "real life." This is where mentors can help.
We would also like to point out that there is a difference between preparing someone solely for "success" in this consumer culture and preparing someone for a "purpose-inspired" life. The later requires mentors who can guide the initiate through a soul-searching exploration which leads to authentic adulthood and service.
Tribal cultures were adept at providing mentors and elders for launching their young people into adulthood. As soon as a child reached puberty a mentor or elder would move in to help the child use his or her natural abilities for self-exploration and for finding a meaningful service. They would use the child's curiosity, propensity for risk and youthful energy and set up experiences that would allow the child to harness this energy for the well-being of the tribe. The pubescent child would be put through a formal "rites of passage" that would formally end childhood. They would move from dependency on parents to becoming contributing members of the tribe. The last step before adulthood was initiation and welcoming them into adulthood.
A child in Western culture will often hate it when a parent tries to give advice. They can hear advice from other people like aunts, uncles or grandparents, even when they are saying the same thing the parents are saying. This happens because the child is trying to separate and become the authority of his or her own life. They feel belittled and disempowered when parents offer advice.
It's wise not to take this distancing personally. Look around at how you might find other trusting people to mentor your young person. Our first suggestion would be to create a larger support community before your child reaches puberty. Start sharing adventures with other families who have children and finding elders to invite on family outings. Sometimes you can enlist the support of relatives. Even long distance relationships can be helpful, but also have local support, even if they are not related. Sometimes relatives may not be capable of giving the best support. Find individuals that you feel good about what they will provide your child.
There are programs for young adults which provide essential life training rarely available in traditional schools. These programs provide mentors who consciously guide the young adults through the missing developmental components necessary to make the passage into authentic adulthood and leadership. Colleen and Randy have founded two of these schools, Life Designs Ranch (www.lifedesignsranch.com) and our newest program, Launch Training (www.empoweringyoungadults.com
There are wilderness and society-based trainings to assist stalled or depressed young adults who haven't fully launched into adulthood. Other programs provide valuable services for young people caught in addiction. Most of these programs are listed here at StrugglingTeens.com
Training is also available for those adults who would like to learn to be an effective mentor. Our Parent Workshop for Empowering Young Adults assists parents and mentors with the tools to effectively launch their adult child (www.empoweringyoungadults.com). Jon Young, Mark Morey and Paul Raphael conduct The Art of Mentoring workshops worldwide, providing invaluable experience and understanding for making the most of the human experience (www.8shields.org
). Jon Young has a new book out, Coyote's Guide to Connecting with Nature (www.coyotesguide.com
) that provides both the secrets to mentoring and incredible routines that inspires positive transitions. A very detailed understanding of the journey into authentic adulthood can be found in Bill Plotkin's book, Nature and the Human Soul.
You, as a parent, are still needed to hold boundaries, provide safety, and guide the transitional experience while your young person is an adolescent. It isn't yet time to trade parenting for friendship. This happens after the next transition; the one into adulthood.