This issue is step 10 and the final in our series for parents on how to empower and launch your child into adulthood. The key point from our introduction was that the underlying goal of healthy parenting is to prepare sons and daughters to be self-reliant, independent individuals who are at home on this planet and in the culture in which they plan to live.
Create and perform rituals that end childhood and begin adulthood.
One of the questions we ask Parents at the Workshop for Empowering Young Adults is, "When did your parents recognize you as an adult?" We get answers that vary from, "They still don't recognize me as an adult" to "I think it was after my first child was born." Seldom do we hear of people who had meaningful celebrations or rituals that marked this most important human transition.
We go through several transitions in a lifetime. Some are celebrated like birth, marriage and death. The two key transitions that are most often overlooked are the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood. These missed opportunities rob both the young person and the community.
Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah, and Confirmation, are rituals that have traditionally celebrated and acknowledged the passage into adulthood. They are effective when the role or social status of the individual changes. Too often though, the rituals feel empty and without meaning for the young person. Afterward life returns to normal and the community does not recognize or integrate them into the larger community.
The transition from childhood to adolescence (pre-adulthood) and the other from adolescence to adulthood are two distinctly different transitions. Adolescence, which starts near the teen years, is when a child gains access to the frontal lobe and becomes an abstract thinker. A young person's ability to weigh ideas and to take action expands. Kids start to test limits. The call of their peers and the need to be accepted in the world is greater than the call to be part of the family.
There is no secret that hormonal growth is intensified, as well as expansion in all other areas of development (physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual). The first sparks of autonomy and independence are felt as a growing desire to explore these new dimensions of the self that are opening up.
This is an excellent time to formally recognize and acknowledge the change. Doing so opens the door for being able to guide their experience in an age appropriate manner. Ceremonies denoting the change are called a "rites of passage". The message is that "childhood is over and it is time to prepare for adulthood."
In a young girl's life, the beginning of menses is the physical onset of preparation for adulthood. A formal ceremony at this time could bring much wisdom and Elder connection for the young lady. Indigenous cultures put a great deal of thought and energy into using these natural junctures for both males and females. They used it as an opportunity for training and as a way to support a young person about to go through a radical physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual change.
Many indigenous cultures followed the ritual ceremony with intense training. This allowed them to take the young person's natural need for adventure and risk-taking and to instill the values of the tribe. Mentors, even more than parents, helped the young person to step into his or her gifts.
When the elders were convinced that the young person had gained the ability to become a contributing member of the culture, they moved them to the next level of training. This entailed a vision quest and entrance ceremony. This marked a passage into self-reliance, of service, and of recognition of their adult status.
The vision quest was used in many traditions. Normally, it included a three-to-four day solo away from civilization. The participant fasted from all things common to seek wisdom from the earth and the Creator. To the Lakota vision quest meant "Crying for a vision." In the Christian tradition, both John the Baptist and Jesus fasted and prayed in the wilderness before starting their ministries. Almost no one goes through a vision quest without being profoundly influenced by the experience. It helps a person to reconnect with the Creator in a way that helps them to find their soul identity and to discover their life purpose.
Ritual ceremony is one of the most powerful ways to anchor in life changes and to teach at the unconscious level. It can create to a new way of thinking and being that will stay with a person throughout their lifetime. Ritual ceremony is able to by-pass the ego and thinking mind and get to the heart-of-the-matter (make transformations at a soul level). This is especially the case when the components are composed of metaphor and are rich with directed human emotion.
Here are a couple of tips for creating your own ritual celebrations: Think of what message you want to leave for future generations. Select music, poetry and stories that you can use that will leave powerful impressions on the hearts and minds of the participants. We suggest that you make it easy enough to replicate and profound enough to remember.
You can honor your ancestors, the earth, the Creator and the little ones yet to be born. The most important factor is your intention. What does it mean that childhood is over? That is the question you want to hold while creating a "rites of passage." For the entrance into adulthood, you need to ask yourself if you are willing to treat them as adults even if they are acting like children. Can you let them learn from their mistakes and not bail them out?
Most of all use the ceremonies to create community and to bring honor to the mentors and Elders that will be there to guide your children through the next phase of their life's journey.
If you want additional training on launching young adults, Colleen and Randy Russell provide workshops, personalized training and more. Their website is www.soulore.com. They would also be willing to answer any of your questions that might have come up in the series. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Authors: Randy and Colleen Russell direct Parent Workshops for Empowering Young Adults and lead workshops and coaching for families and individuals. For more information call 208-255-2290 or visit