by Carolyn Kolovitz

Every mom reaches a point similar to the mom in Little Red Riding Hood. Sooner or later, we must send our child alone into the forest of adolescence. We can be present with them in spirit – loving them, modeling our values, warning them not to talk to wolves – but ultimately the transition through puberty and into adulthood is a journey they make on their own.

How can we – as parents, grandparents, teachers, spiritual elders – send our children on their journey with a sense of deep purpose and meaning? How do we guide them in seeing the sacred beauty of the world? How can we encourage them not to squelch their sacred gifts and power? What practices can we offer for expressing teen longings and pain in a way that does not lead to self-destruction?

How can we nurture a strong spiritual center through which they will experience the world?

I have a unique perspective on these questions because I did not raise my child from infancy.

My daughter rode on an airplane for the first time when she was seven years old. Carrying all her worldly possessions in a small carry-on suitcase and accompanied by a social worker, she left her tropical home and arrived at the freezing Minnesota airport where I was waiting with a teddy bear and an “I love you” balloon. As a distant relative, I had met her one time before this, and now was adopting her.

That was years ago, but I still hold that image of a tiny girl with a wide, eager-to-please smile floating unmoored over the country – nothing familiar or secure connecting her to this world.

For me, this image represents not just her extreme situation of needing a new caregiver at such a tender age, but so many girls I have known – even those with loving parents –  who feel dis-connected from the world, their own friends and family, their own bodies, their own selves.

Before the adoption, I spent many years facilitating groups with tweens and teens. I knew many young people who felt unmoored from anything resembling purpose, meaning or self-worth as they made their way through the wilds of school hallways, social media, and reality videos. Mental health statistics show rapidly rising rates of teen depression, anxiety, and self-harm, backing up what I witnessed.

I began motherhood with an urgent purpose of connecting my daughter to the sacred within herself, her new family and friends, her strange new world, and the Divine who loved her all along.

All adults can guide the children and teens in their lives into sacred connection. On February 17th, I will be facilitating an event where we can share ideas for this important work. Join us for “Nurturing Spirituality in Children and Teens” at Loyola Spirituality Center. Click here for more information and to register.