Developing Adult Behaviour
Over the course of recent decades ‘teenager’ has become a bit of a dirty word. People often feel uneasy or intimidated walking past a group of youths. Many parents dread seeing their fun, creative and chatty youngsters becoming grunting and wayward teenagers.
But does it really have to be that way? How about if we could see the teenage years as valuable and important? What if we actually celebrated our children becoming teenagers?
In many cultures the idea of ‘teenagehood’ doesn’t exist
At puberty children take part in a formal rite of passage and are then seen as young adults. This would be a time of celebration. There was no in-between stage as we have in the western world.
In our society, a young person has to be a teenager before they become an adult. We have created this period of transition from child to adult, but is it always clear where it begins and ends?
At what point do young people see themselves as being grown up?
When they first get drunk legally on their 18th birthday? Or when they first have sex? When they get their driving licence perhaps? Or when they start work?
Perhaps an alternative idea would be to mark and celebrate the change from child to teenager/young adult? And perhaps if we did this we could encourage teenagers, and their parents, to view this period of time in a more positive way.
Teenagers are caught in an odd stage of life: They no longer see themselves as children but society does not accept them as adults. The transition to adulthood involves answering the question ‘who am I?’, often with very little guidance.
As parents we often don’t know how to guide them as we were not taught how to do this and neither were our parents. But trying to answer this question is at the root of a lot of teenage problems and is essential to becoming an independent and stable adult.
Rites of Passage
Traditionally, rites of passage involved the young girl or boy entering puberty, at about 12 or 13, being taken away from the security of their parents, their family and their community to somewhere in the wilderness. There they would be subjected to tests and training in the ways of their community from an older man or woman.
We may not be able to replicate this kind of experience, but it may be that there are some things we can learn from the ways of other cultures and take steps to mark this time in our child’s life.
Although we may be limited in what we could do, the important thing is to have the right intention: to help our child to value what they have learnt so far, to view the years ahead of them as a special opportunity to discover themselves and celebrate the journey towards becoming an adult.
The first thing is to discuss it with your child and find out their thoughts about it and maybe they will come up with ideas that would suit them.
There are organisations that specialise in camps and organised trips in the countryside for children and adults. Alternatively, you could plan some kind of celebration party or event of your own. This could include the lighting of candles and people making a wish or blessing for the years ahead. Perhaps older members of the family could offer short words of wisdom from their own experience.
Whatever you and your child choose to do, you will be showing them that being a teenager can be a positive and valuable experience. At the very least it will strengthen the bond you have with your adolescent and give them something to sustain them through the often rocky years that lie ahead and remind them that there is a purpose in it all. As single parents this could make all the difference to how we experience having teenagers and are able to support them to become independent and responsible adults.