Celebrating Rites of Passage with Your Children

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We live in one of the greatest countries this world has ever known. But, one thing we don’t really do well is celebrate the passage of our children into key stages of their growing up. Many other cultures celebrate the passing of a child into puberty and then into adulthood (typically around the ages of 13 and 16 respectively). Graduations and Weddings we get. However, many of life’s greatest lessons happen long before these celebratory events. Subsequently, we’ve left much of the indoctrination or teaching of the major issues that our children are facing to the education systems. They need to hear about and learn them from mom and dad.

Though I don’t claim to be the world’s greatest “celebrator”, I learned about the importance of having these rites of passage with my children, especially my son. Through friends, FamilyLifeand PromiseKeeper’s, I was encouraged in how to help prepare my son for manhood and launch him into the awkward stages of puberty and high school.

When Bryan turned 13 we took a weekend to get away and talk about some very relevant and important topics, dating, peer pressure and sex. I knew he was aware of these things. But, I didn’t want this culture to be his teacher in these critical areas of life. I wanted him to hear that there were traps in each of these areas and he needed a game plan to navigate around them. FamilyLife has developed a great tool for this that I used to help plan a weekend to discuss these with him specifically. It’s called Passport 2 Purity and was my compass for the weekend.  I decided to book a hotel room across town and set up a golf outing around our discussion time.  We finished our weekend event around a steak dinner. There I presented him with a pocket knife, engraved with his name, the date of our celebration and my signature.

My wife did the same thing with our two daughters when they were a little younger (of course she didn’t play golf or give them pocket knives—spa and shopping were the order of the day for the ladies and purity rings for the girls :) ). Ideally it’s done when they are 11 or 12 depending on the maturity of the child to handle these sensitive topics. We still refer to our “passport” weekend to bolster discussions about peer pressure (“bad company corrupts good morals”) and/or dating/sex issues . It was an event we’ll never forget and I believe it has helped and continues to help our children navigate these treacherous waters.

A few years later, I joined with four other dads and we began a yearlong bible study with our sons. The study was called Passages (from PromiseKeeper’s) and it guided us to have interesting and event filled studies with our sons about relevant issues they face as young men (e.g., pornography, dating, sex, choosing friends, being men of integrity, memorizing scripture, and becoming followers of Christ). We played games, ate food and shared what the Bible had to say about these topics and how we could apply them to our lives. It was a tremendous time of bonding for us as fathers with our sons and as a group of men and sons.

We celebrated the yearlong study with a camping event to the Boundary Waters, a very beautiful and rustic area of northern Minnesota. There we camped, fished, ate, and did other “guy things”. I wrote a four page letter to my son that I read to him while he rowed us out on the lake in a canoe. It was a touching time and one I still remember as if it were yesterday.  Here are some photos from the event:

Dads and Sons on Passages Camp wknd

Me and Bry at Psgs Camp wknd 2003

Finally, the night before we went home, each dad “knighted” his son. Each son sat in a chair in front of the other boys and fathers while his dad told him how much he loved him and how proud he was of him. The father concluded by praying a blessing over his son. Then, all of the fathers gathered around the group of young men and prayed collectively over them.

Dads praying over Bryan during Psgs Ceremony

Dads praying over Andrew during Psgs Ceremony

Dads praying over David during Psgs Ceremony

Dads praying over Eric during Psgs Ceremony

Again, it was a very moving time.

Bryan fishing at Passages wknd

Nice Catch Dad!

The boys of Passages

One of the dads in the group had a brother who was a graphic designer. He made up a framed portrait that had a scale model miniature swords, each of the sons and fathers name pairs and the verse, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (1 Cor 16:13)

Warriors For Christ Plaque

Well, that’s been our experience in celebrating our children’s passage into adulthood.  We have many celebrations still to come; high school graduation for our youngest, college graduation, weddings, births of our grandchildren, et al.  Yet, I believe that maybe one of the most significant ones we have celebrated might just be their passage into these critically influential years from adolescence to puberty and into young adults.

SOUND OFF:  What rituals, rites of passage or celebrations have you experienced with your children that you know made a significant impact on their lives in preparing them to be mature men and women??

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4 Responses to “Celebrating Rites of Passage with Your Children”

  1. @davidtcopeland Says:

    Thanks for the post about such an important topic. I took my son on an overnight backpacking trip just last spring for “the talk” and think this moments of passage are critical. Next up will be a multiday Trip hopefully to Philmont the summer before he starts highschool. I think the key is open and ongoing communication based on trust and of course strong Biblical priciples.

  2. Jeff Abramovitz Says:

    Glad you are taking the time and making the effort to speak to your son about these issues. They get so much thrown at them from the world’s perspective that it takes an intentional parent to beat the world to their child’s mind and heart. Another good resource for a son and his father is Robert Lewis’ Raising a Modern Day Night! Recommend it if you haven’t read it. Good ideas for these kind of celebrations.

  3. Karla Cutts Says:

    Thank you! I just happened to find your blog when I googled passport to purity. It made me cry because I lost my husband suddenly this past March and we have a 7 year old girl and a 3 year old boy. I’m struggleing with the single parent thing! Your story about passages with your kids touched me deeply. I pray that there will be a man like you and your friends in my son’s life when his rite of passage time is near. Thank you for investing in the future husbands of some pretty lucky girls!

  4. Jeff Abramovitz Says:

    Karla, thank you so much for the encouraging words spoken from a broken hear. I pray that God would give you peace amidst this very difficult time and that He would provide a man of God to enter into your kids lives. Since He is the ULTIMATE Father, I believe He will do this. God’s peace to you and thank you again.

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