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Paying Attention to Teens’ Rites of Passage

Celebrating and Communicating About Transitions


Identify and Understand the Rites of Passage. While some of these transitions we have identified are common, your teen will have some specific ones. One of our daughters had a significant transition when her braces came off and she tried contact lenses for the first time in the same week. So be watching and communicating frequently with your teen all the time to be keyed into their transitions. Sometimes listening to conversations with their friends will help you identify the rites of passage that are important to them.

Find Meaningful Celebration Strategies. Many successful families I know have some rituals built around transitions.

  • Birthdays and other special events in our family are celebrated with a dinner of our honoree's choice, and that child gets a gold plate, goblet and gold-plated flatware to enjoy during dinner.

  • A friend of ours has a special ritual associated with each daughter's first formal dance-a day spa, manicure, and a salon visit for hair styling.

  • My sister in law takes her daughters for a "glamour shot" when they turn 16.

  • Another friend takes his sons when they turn 14 on their first deer hunt, buying them hunting gear and a license in advance.

  • At our house, high school graduation is a big deal. The whole extended family comes for a steak barbeque and bring graduation gifts after the formal ceremony.

In each case, the traditions and rituals are meaningful and communicate a feeling of celebration. Let your imagination run wild and find ways to acknowledge and celebrate these transitions.

Parting Comment. As I read the summary of the Teens Today report, I was struck with how easy it seemed to be to just start recognizing and celebrating transitions. But I had to wonder if it was not the close, communicative relationship between teens and parents that really drove the celebration of these rites of passage. In other words, is the lack of attention to transitions a root problem, or is it a symptom of generally inattentive parenting? I suspect that recognizing these transitions is a natural outcome of a close, positive relationship between teenagers and parents. But the results of the survey are so significant that I would recommend that every father work hard to communicate effectively, and to recognize the celebrate these "crossroads" events in their teenagers' lives.

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