There are few such fundamental choices in children’s lives where it is difficult to go back. It is a bit like following a road map or a navigator, each road we take represents a choice at an intersection that takes us further and further away from the starting point.
There are two fundamental stages 14 years and then 19. The choice of high school and then, after graduation.
In fact, if up to middle school there are no differences, from the eighth grade onwards all children are faced with their first really meaningful choice, which high school is the most appropriate?
There are orientation tests that indicate, for example, the predisposition towards literary, scientific or artistic subjects. Basically, those who do well in school will be directed to a high school, those who do poorly to a less “demanding” school. Many times children choose by exclusion, not by a real preference, also because it is objectively complicated to have clear ideas on what to do in the next five years, years which among other things are those of adolescence that bring substantial changes in the life.
Sometimes, on the contrary, having absolutely clear ideas can be a sign of excessive rigidity and little permeability to new stimuli.
How to help young people avoid that awful feeling of having absolutely no idea and choose a school at the last minute because their best friend goes there? Or subsequently which college major to choose, which is an even more momentous decision with respect to one’s professional and personal future.
To do this, we must try to understand the nature of this mental vacuum that risks making every choice inadequate.
Children are born, grow up, hold an adult’s hand, because it takes years to acquire material autonomy and independence.
The hand that was used to make the child feel safe, compared to a world yet to be explored and understood, at a certain point is removed and should become a hand intended as a guide and interest so that the child reaches their maximum potential.
There is a current cultural trend, which I believe has significant repercussions also on parenthood, which is to make children adults and able to look after themselves as soon as possible.
Mobile phones, outings, very poorly defined timetables, fewer and fewer accompaniments and more and more the “go alone” route because children have to have their experiences and be able to get by in the world. According to this perspective, this will forge children and make them grow safely because they are not protected by parents.
Young people very often can’t wait to acquire more and more autonomy and independence. They feel grown-up, mature, leaving childhood behind.
Sometimes, the beginning of this new chapter in life can be done with too clean a cut compared to the past, with the consequent risk of making the image of those children, which is too narrow now, disappear and also their own history, erasing everything, valid and non-valid experiences. This cancellation operation, if successful, will not leave the young person unscathed, but a void of ideas and interests will be the direct consequence.
The biggest difficulty is understanding how to follow your child, to stimulate curiosity and interests within the relationship that will turn into choices of studies and therefore of life. In fact, many parents are frightened of having their children grow up under a glass bell, being too intrusive, oppressive, deciding for the child, not taking into account his thoughts or attitudes.
As adults and parents, the young people must be given the space and freedom that they are able to manage and which obviously will tend to increase more and more, and which can only be understood in a deep relationship of knowledge of the other. If we go out in short sleeves, just because the calendar on March 21 marks the beginning of spring, we might risk getting sick because it could rain and be very cold. With children and young people, there are no set and equal ages for everyone in which to have their own experiences, and privacy and freedom, for a human being who is forming his or her identity, can be double-edged weapons.
From the perspective of the young people, how can you find your own unique and personal path without the risk of making an apparent rebellion, because one is angry, which tends towards the destructiveness of your possibilities or your own devaluation?
At puberty, two dynamics lead to the apparent same result of discontinuity with the past.
More precisely, the image of the child disappears and transforms into a different person while maintaining a link with their own story, or a disappearance with a void hides in this discontinuity.
Because dealing with one’s own history is fundamental to carry on a rebellion and therefore make life choices that go towards one’s own realization.
Separating oneself from the past in an evolutionary way means really seeing who one’s parents are, with strengths and weaknesses, letting go to form new relationships with peers, with a boy or girl, in short, keeping an invisible thread with that past, but at the same time striking out to look for something new and unknown.
Thanks to Ray Williams for the translation of this article.