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Should I hold a rite of passage for my son who is 18 years old?

A rite of passage is an event that a boy can look back on and say “that was the moment that I became a man.” It is ideally suited for a boy around 13 years old, but a son who is 14, 15 or 16 years old is also acceptable. This more closely resembles the ages when a boy completes a Jewish Bar-Mitzvah or an Aboriginal Walkout.

If you are wondering if you should hold a rite of passage for a son who is 18 years old, our advice is: it depends.

On one hand, it is very important that boys hear from their fathers “in my eyes, I no longer see you as a boy, but I consider you to be a man just like me now.” It’s important for fathers to affirm their son’s masculine identity, because if you do not your son will try to prove his manhood to himself and to his peers. This could take the form of reckless stunts, violence, or the sexual conquest of women.

On the other hand, an 18 year old son probably already sees himself as a man to some degree. Holding a rite of passage at this age has the potential emasculate him. He many not appreciate his dad telling him “now I consider you to be man.”

The age of 18 really is the tipping point between a rite of passage being a good idea, and a rite of passage being a bad idea. Since we do not know your son and your family situation, we will leave it up to you to decide if a ROP is a good idea for your son.

If you do decide to hold a rite of passage for your son, be aware of the fact that he probably already considers himself to be a man to some degree, and be very cautious not to emasculate him.

If you decide NOT to hold a rite of passage for him, we recommend that you instead write him a letter telling him how proud you are of him, how much you love him, and some of your hopes for him (writing a letter is one of the rituals that makes up the Rite of Passage weekend). Every son wants to hear his dad say “I’m proud of the man that you’ve become”. By saying this, you are 1) affirming his masculine identity i.e. “I’m proud of the man…” and 2) you are affirming that he is already a man i.e. “…that you’ve become.”


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