Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Who should be responsible for the proper transition of children into adulthood?

The family.

It seems that our society has developed an interesting system that continuously pushes, restricts, and encourages limits on the role a family should play in helping our children as they grow from adolescence into adulthood.

Why does our culture systematically deliver the notion to new adolescents that being with their parents should be embarrassing and that distancing themselves from their families is the thing to do? And, when it is time to go to college, why do we make them go from being an integral part of a home/family, with all that comes with it (i.e., support, coaching, values, boundaries, responsibilities, etc.), to complete separation over a weekend.

In addition, we have grown to expect the government to step in and do part of a family’s job by defining blanket laws for their growing children ... minimum ages for drinking, driving, smoking, military service, public place curfews, buying spray paint, TV shows, video games, movies, etc.

What ever happened to families stepping in and providing the necessary guidance and support to help teenagers successfully grow into full independence? What happened to making the transition into all of these things a more gradual and natural process based on the specifics of each child?

In other cultures where families (parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins - with all of their craziness and quirks) stay involved in all aspects of a growing teenager’s life the transition seems smoother.

Would our teenagers be better off having their birthday parties together with both their family and friends? Why should teenagers be embarrassed of the crazy aunt interacting with their friends if that is part of who they are? What is wrong with learning how to drink at the dinner table with the whole family instead of in a dark alley with friends hiding from the police? Why do we need to tell our children they need to leave home at 18, go to college and never come back, instead of providing a nurturing home until and when they are ready?

Is it because not all families are ready to provide the level of support required to ensure a healthy transition into adulthood? Maybe. On the other hand, why are so many healthy functioning families abdicating their responsibility in these areas to laws and culture?

Is it because it is just easier than to do the work? Think about what is at stake. The most important thing of all … our children.

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