Initiation Rites for Adolescent Boys

In this era of gangs, "drive-by" shootings, 15 year olds killing 15 year olds, one certainly gets very disheartened and indifferent. It's easy to put on a "stiff upper lip" and become more cynical; simply accept these murders as part of the package of living in the 21st century. One can accept these atrocities of primarily inner city youth along with global warming, multiple wars, and now the 700 billion dollar "bail out" with the impending recession as just the way it is.

On the other hand, there may be some real solutions to these problems--specifically, the unwarranted death of urban youth. One solution that has worked for centuries prior to the industrial revolution is the custom and ritual of youth initiation; specifically, for adolescent boys. Third world cultures, although not exclusive to European cultures, have used these rites of passage ceremonies as a way to initiate their young adolescent boys into adulthood. Particularly among African tribes, these ceremonies that were participated in with enthusiasm by the boys' mothers as well, have proved to be a significant way to incorporate boys into the larger culture and recognize their value as young men who can then "give back" to the community at large.Once initiated, these "young men" can marry, defend their tribes, hunt with the adult men,etc. They are given a place and standing, if you will, in the adult community and they are honored. They know it and believe it. Perhaps, an honoring and blessing for not only urban youth but rural and suburban youth as well in the USA would help significantly in slowing down, if not eliminating the destructive forces that plague our nation and other industrialized nations as well.

Louise Kaplan, Ph.D. says this in her book, Adolescence: The Farewell to Childhood "The ceremonies for boys are frequently derived from some idea of separation from the world of women and children. At one or another moment over a period of time the boy is required to give up his emotional attachment to his mother--who weeps for him. He becomes attached to all men. He abandons his boyhood sports and games along with his domestic ties to his mother. After the ceremony of severing the bonds of childhood the boy is instructed by a designated sponsor or group of teachers in the duties and moral responsibilities of his community."

Today's boys and adolescents need strong, consistent, caring, initiated, older men as male models. If our youth can get the mentoring and blessings from these older men, perhaps we can turn the tide and raise healthy adolescent boys who will chose life and living instead of death and destruction. I sure hope so for all of us.

©2010, Michael Shaffran

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Mike Shaffran is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Psychotherapist with over 30 years experience in the mental health profession. He's worked most of his time in outpatient Psychiatric clinics where he has provided individual, couples/marital, family and group therapy. He is trained in multiple therapies, including: Psycho-dynamic, Gestalt,Structural-Strategic Family, Solution focused, Brief Therapy, and other methods. He is trained in EMDR ( a type of therapy for PTSD), hypnosis, meditation and guided imagery also. Mike is committed to ongoing seminars, workshops and trainings to keep current with the latest therapy to provide the best services possible to his clients. www.sanluisobispotherapy.com or E-Mail

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