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Friday, October 19, 2007

Rites of Passage

“Youth is a blunder; manhood, a struggle; old age, a regret. - Benjamin Disraeli
For all of us there are events in our lives, either challenges or milestones, sometimes both, we must negotiate as part of the process of growth and maturation. Over the next few weeks I will be discussing some of them, providing my own take on them, supported by research and expert opinion when applicable and possible.
I will cover childhood challenges such as the first day of school, the onset of puberty, teenage challenges such as driving, dating and when to allow the use of make-up. Rites of passage are not limited to young people; adults face their own challenges such as Selective Service registration, marriage, parenting, empty nests, retirement and death. I encourage all of you to send me suggestions on which of these milestones are the most problematic. It is not my aim to provide solutions to these issues, but hopefully provide suggestions to make them less challenging and begin a discussion in our families and our community at large.
There are a number of things to keep in mind when providing help and advice to someone facing a rite of passage. While these milestones are common for most of us, our view of these challenges is anything but common. By in large, perception is reality; so you must be respectful of the reality of the person undergoing the change.

1. Rites of passage are not the same for everyone- reaching puberty maybe particularly difficult for one young person and a piece of cake for another, while some of us will age gracefully and others will not, so don’t assume.
2. Ensure you do more listening than talking.
3. Be empathetic- remember that you probably went through this same challenge or one like it. If you negotiated it well then try to keep in mind not everyone can face all challenges with the same grace you had; and if you did not fare as well as would have liked, then try to ease the passing for someone else.
4. Celebrate these times. They mark the passage of our lives and highlight the fact that growth is a journey not a destination.
5. Be a good example. If you are in a time of transition, or rite of passage, do it well and seek help if you need it. If you are mentoring or parenting someone in a rite of passage strive to live as good example so they can see where they should be headed.
6. Meet all challenges, regardless of the circumstances, with the same unconditional love and acceptance you wanted (and will likely want again) when you meet your own rites of passage.
Life is a wonderful ride, wholly unique to each of us, yet marked by events common to all of us. These events are typically our greatest challenges in life, but the commonality of these experiences is our greatest strength; we can, and should, help and mentor each other through them and in the process learn more about ourselves as well. “The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”- Eleanor Roosevelt

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