Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Adolescence


The term teenager has not been around very long. In fact, the entire concept of adolescence is fairly new. In the past, we went from children to adults instantly, usually with a rite of passage. Children would go through this ceremony, sometimes involving a test or trial, and come out the other side fully-fledged adults.

But with changing times, a new type of person has been created, the teenager. People asking for the rights of an adult with the responsibility of a child.

And a problem has been created where people are being adolescents for much longer than just their teen years. People asking for the rights of an adult with the responsibility of a child up until they're thirty years old, even forty sometimes.

You see what happened is that without the line in the sand that a rite of passage creates; there's nothing to tell children when they are adults, so people remain children well into their "adult" years.

There was a time not long ago where people would come out of school and start working, which was sort of a rite of passage. But with people getting jobs in their early teens now, and staying at school in the form of university or college until as old as twenty-five, that line is significantly blurred.

And the problem with that scenario is that people need to know who they are. Research has shown that the kids that drop out of school and pick up a trade early in life have a much better sense of identity, because they can be labelled by their trade. "I'm a carpenter." "I'm a baker." "I'm a plumber."

But people well into their twenties and at university still have no sense of identity.

I think people need a rite of passage. A point in their lives where they went from being a child to an adult. Where a line was crossed and there was no going back. Because adolescence is all about the search for identity, and the forming of one's own identity.

During adolescence; a child needs to create their own identity, and no longer be a shadow of their parent's identity. It's this clash of identities as children try to become adults that creates friction between parents and teenagers, and creates a desire for independence in the kids.

Of course, a serious problem arises when teenagers try to find their identity in their friends, the media, gangs, or anything else that isn't healthy.

Once upon a time, a boy would be kicked out of home to go and make his own way in the big bad world, and they would become a man in their own way. Now I'm not suggesting that every parent kicks their kid out on their eighteenth birthday, but I have heard of parents doing that to their kids. And those kids turned out pretty great.

I think every teenager needs three things. A rite of passage, a sense of identity, and independence. Otherwise that child will never become an adult.

Three years ago I had my rite of passage. When I went to India when I was fourteen, my life changed in a significant way, and I understood my purpose, my identity, and my place in the world.

I have one more year of high school, and then I think I will leave the nest.

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