My 14-year-old son is participating in a Coming-Of-Age program through our church. This program helps teens with the transition between childhood and youth. Kids learn what it means to move out of childhood, how freedom and responsibility go hand-in-hand and how to use their expanding freedom in good and healthy ways.
The big event for this program is Vision Quest weekend. Friday night the teens and their adult mentors participate in a sweat lodge ceremony and Saturday the teens spend 6 hours in the woods by themselves – no cellphones, music or books – just time to reflect, write in their journals and paint their youth mask.
Parents participate in a departure ceremony, a welcome back potluck and ceremony, plus write a letter to their teen describing what they see as their child’s unique strengths and gifts. The teens are given this letter to read while they are in the woods. My favorite part was writing the letter – something I probably wouldn't have done if it weren’t part of this program.
While this program is primarily aimed at teens, it certainly is helpful to parents in recognizing and honoring the changes in their children. Parents expressed nostalgia for the childhood that is past and hope for their teen’s future. Letting go and allowing our children to grow up isn’t easy but going through it with other parents helps.