Rites of Passage
In earlier cultures, rites of passage and coming-of-age ceremonies were imbedded into the culture. Young men or boys were taken by the elders or other men to a place where they were initiated into the male culture of the tribe, girls and young women had their equivalent. They may have had to overcome a physical trial, experience fear and separation, or find some symbol that represented their coming transition.
By the time this trial was completed, the young person understood their place in the society, their responsibilities, code of conduct and were welcomed warmly into the adult world.
First Day of School or Kindergarten
In western society today, we no longer place an emphasis on our important Rites of Passage. A child’s first day of school or kindergarten can be fraught with anxiety felt by the entire family. Some children seem to breeze through this socially important day, and every mother will know children (and parents) who did not. The emotions felt at this time are akin to a grieving process and now well-documented.
Planning something special for your child for this important transition should involve other family members and friends. It need only be simple, perhaps conducted the night before, and may include some easy activity such as putting away an item that represents their baby-hood and taking up an item that represents their new status. A memento of the occasion can be provided for the child to provide physical memories of the day.
Throughout our childhood we look forward to certain birthdays as marks of transition; birth, age 5 when we may start school, 10 when we reach double figures, 13 when we finally become a teenager. These birthdays can be used as gateway transitions for the child as they gain more experience, take on other responsibilities and develop their personalities.
It used to be that a young person was considered an adult at age 21. In modern times, it is more likely to be 18, a time in Australia when you can have a drivers license, drink in a hotel or club and legally be married. An 18th birthday party can sometimes be a source of concern for parents, particularly if some alcohol is to be consumed. And of course, there is the ever-present fear of drugs. A suitable coming-of-age ceremony as a part of an 18th or 21st birthday may help put a focus on the event as something other than an excuse to get drunk.
One doesn’t have to look hard to find examples of the emotionally diverse experiences, troubles and crises of adolescence. On the one hand you have distressing levels of young people contemplating and committing suicide, experiencing homelessness, substance abuse and teenage pregnancy. Yet you also have young people who study hard, travel or become volunteers in welfare and support agencies. The emotional storms of the years of puberty may have dulled in our minds, but that does not diminish the anguish or the energy of the emotional storms being experienced by the pre-teens, teenagers and young adults in our families.
This is where a trained celebrant can be of help. Celebrants trained by the International College of Celebrancy have studied ceremonies of this nature and are experienced in interpreting what your adolescent may wish to incorporate into a special ceremony on their advent into adult-hood. Look on our celebrant pages for a celebrant in your area who can assist. You can also call us at the Celebrant Centre for information on how to conduct these ceremonies.
David Oldfield is a pioneer of modern day Rites of Passage and Coming-of-Age transitions for adolescents. David’s lifes work is represented in an experiential course for adolescents he called ‘The Journey’.
Facilitators trained by the International College of Celebrancy conduct these courses on a regular basis. Contact the Celebrants Centre for an enrollment brochure.
The next facilitated Journey will take place in October. This will be facilitated by Gemma Schooeneveldt, a celebrant trained in David’s Journey and other processes.