A rite of passage is a way of saying we see you, we support you, we acknowledge that you are growing up and can begin to shoulder responsibility for your own life and we expect you to do so.
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that, in the absence of any formal acknowledgement of having reached womanhood or manhood, young women and men will creat some way of knowing for themselves that they have reached adulthood.
At it’s best this can be an overseas trip, or managing a project, or caring for a friend in some way.
At it’s worst it can be through the use of drugs, alcohol, fast cars, sex, or teenage pregnancy.
Young people yearn for affirmation from the adults in their community that they have achieved adulthood. Teenage risk-taking behaviour is often their attempts at self-initiation to prove their adulthood.
Moving from the child stage to the adult stage in life means great changes in the psyche and a ritual or rite of passage is a way to faciliate this. A significant shift is required to move from girl to woman psychology and if older women assist in this shift, and create an event to mark this, it is less likely for a girl to grow up into a woman-child and more likely for her to become a grown woman of vision. It is stressful to live an adult life and have the psychology of a child – although many do. Far better for both individual and community to invest energy into the maturation process of our adolescents, giving our girls a sense of what it is to be a woman and guidance along their journey of becoming one.
We commonly acknowledge the important transitions such as birth, marriage and death but many cultures have lost their formal recognition of this important transition from childhood to adulthood. Paradoxically, the puberty rite of passage is the one rite where most energy and effort used to be given as it was regarded as the most important transition to support.
Some cultures still offer this rite of passage: Jewish Bat Mitzvah, Christian Confirmation, High school prom, Vision quest in some Native American cultures, Coming of age party.
Although no longer customary in many cultures, there is a lot to be gained by reviving old customs of rites and initiation into adulthood. We can learn much from those who are still honouring these rites, and gleen a great deal from how it has been carried out in the past. However, if it is to have meaning for our children now, we would also do well to customise their rite of passage to suit them, our times, and our culture now.
A rite of passage creates a shift in self-perception which moves a person along the path of maturity. A rite of passage also creates a shift in how that young person is perceived within their community of family and friends. This can help her parents to release the responsibility for their daughter’s life to her.
If you would like support or further guidance in creating a rite of passage with your daughter I offer private telephone coaching sessions. For information email me at firstname.lastname@example.org