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Michael Wilkes says careful consideration in how we celebrate and mark transitions into adulthood may be of significant value. Photo: SUPPLIED

Walking our kids into the future



Recently I took my daughter out for an adventure. Just me and her.
We have this tradition we started where we go on a ‘big kid’ adventure before first starting school. For my eldest son, we camped over night and then walked to the top of a mountain to abseil off and then climb back up.

We were going to do the same for my daughter, but all this rain has put a damper on that. So instead, we went exploring and tented overnight. This is a milestone in our family. It’s a big deal. And so we do something big. Something scary.
Something that gives us the opportunity to say at school when things get hard: “remember when you abseiled off that cliff… remember when you went in that cave? Remember how you were scared? Remember how you felt once you started?” And my oldest, who is used to these questions will answer: “Once I start, I know I’ll be okay.” Once we start, so often the fear and anxiety fade.
This all got me thinking about rites of passage. What are the moments in our culture and our family where we celebrate significant moments towards maturity.
The Aboriginal people send their young on a “walkabout”. The Jewish people have Bar Mitzvah. The Amish have Rumspringa, where a 16-year-old is invited to experience the modern world and choose which life they want.
Many cultures around the world mark certain stages of a young person’s life as a turning point. A moment where we do something scary and celebrate a transition from child to adulthood (or from child to bigger child).
In our culture, we have the driver’s licence, the prom, finishing school, graduating university, or maybe the 21st party. All steps to adulthood and independence, yet often not intentional, and often the significance of the moment is lost.
And there are many young adults searching for identity and seemingly uncomfortable with the reality that they are “adulting” it now. Maybe this falls on us as parents.
Have we prepared our kids for adult life, or have we operated on default and let circumstances and society shape our parenting?
One article I recently read described how rites of passage create a sense of renewal and belonging.
Whereas for many of our young adults their feelings could not be anymore different. The BBC’s loneliness project surveyed 50,000 people to discover young adults are just as lonely as the elderly.
It would seem to me that careful consideration in how we celebrate and mark transitions into adulthood may be of significant value.
Maybe we can create experiences for our children in such a way that fills them with excitement and anticipation for the next stage of life (renewal). And help them see and feel that this next stage is right where they are meant to be (belonging).
So a question I am considering, and maybe one you could ponder too is… what traditions could we start in our family that offer our children rites of passage?
What moments are we intentionally creating where we can mark and celebrate key milestones in our children’s life?
Because in doing so, we just might see our children stronger, more self-assured in themselves and ready to take on the next stage of life.
Michael Wilkes is a Living Well Trust Youth Worker