Creative Threshold
Edith Sullwold Archive

"Swimming with Seals: The Developmental Role of Initiation Rituals
 in Work with Adolescents" by Edith Sullwold
, Ph.D.
Reprinted by permission of Springer Publishers
from Child and Youth Care Forum, Vol. 27, No. 5, Human Sciences Press, Inc.,
copyright 1998 by Human Sciences Press, Inc.

ABSTRACT:   This paper uses the story of one young man's coming of age to consider the natural process of initiation as a model for intentional work with youth, The paper proposes a conscious and meaningful rites-of- passage approach to helping children and youth (particularly troubled and troubling or out-of-control youth) by assisting them in a successful passage to adulthood.

I want to begin with a tale about the individual metamorphosis of an adolescent boy. He was to be thirteen in a few weeks and his parents, conscious of the beginning of his teen years, invited the extended family of uncles, aunts, and grandparents to a special birthday dinner. My husband and I, close friends of the family, were included among the elders. It happened that we were ourselves entertaining a couple from California the man, a successful movie and TV actor, and his wife, a gifted artist. They were also asked to join the celebration, especially because this young boy, turning toward manhood, had particular talents in both art and drama.     

Gifts given, congratulations received, we gathered at the table, festive with decorations made by his younger brother and sister. The boy himself was seated at the head of the table, serving champagne for the elders and sparkling cider for the young ones. Instead of the usual toasts, his father asked that each of the men present give him a statement of wisdom from their own life experience. Those I remember were my husband's, "No matter how strong the pressures of the collective become, always find a way to be true to yourself," and the actor's, "Never let your talents be sold out in any way that you cannot defend morally." Statements of morality, honesty, and honoring of selfhood.     

Click here for entire article in PDF format (at the request of publisher)


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