Before I start, I want to first mention that I do not personally care to have children, nor do I really want to even be around them. I even tease my friends who have had children, that being pregnant is akin to being infected with a parasite, giving birth is spawning, and children are heathens. (Which brings either laughter or annoyance depending on how wonderfully inappropriate my friend’s humor is.) With that being said, let me now express how important children are to the Pagan community.
I have attended many different Pagan events, and have come across a few that seem to not welcome children. I understand that there are certain rituals that you do not want children to be a part of, because of the subject or intensity of the energy work involved, but each group needs to understand the importance of children within their community. The groups need to know how to embrace children of all ages into their gatherings.
Children are never going away, that is a hard fact. Also, the number of Pagan children increases daily. There are Pagan children who are raised in Pagan families and there are children who found their path to Paganism on their own and are still seeking knowledge. How we treat these children and how we educate them will help shape and define their path for the future of the Pagan community. It is better that a community embrace, help, guide and teach them, because eventually they will become adults. By the time they are old enough to understand, how will they perceive the group and their place within it? Hopefully, they will already be thriving members who help build up the group.
Children are capable of bringing such a unique energy to a ritual, celebration, and/or a group. Their innocence allows the adults to laugh and tap into a little piece of their own inner child. This occurrence, while small, can bring peace and simple joy to the group and is an act of magic all on its own. A child also gives adults with or without children an opportunity to pass on their own knowledge. Much of a Pagan’s path is passed down from previous generations. Each person has a story and wisdom that is valued by its ability to be taught to the next generation. The possible consequences of shunning children within the community is isolating a child who needs guidance, as well as isolating your group from a new light and growth that the child brings.
As much of a blessing as children can be for a group they can also bring new challenges. This is especially true when working with young children. They tend to not have the ability to focus at times and can even disrupt rituals with crying or other distracting behaviors. However, there are ways to work with and around this. One thing the group can do is designate a “babysitter” and have the young children in a separate room with games and season themed activities. Make sure that you rotate the babysitter to allow all members to have the chance to babysit and be a part of things. This rotation gives everyone an opportunity to be a part of the children’s time as well as part of the rituals. It is also not fair to make one individual do all the babysitting.
For the older children give them the opportunity to learn about the ritual before it even starts. Show them what happens with a ritual and why. Give the children jobs during the ritual so that they feel included and are more likely to stay engaged. As the child ages you can give them more responsibilities and even have them call corners or hold a space. These jobs will give the children goals, a sense of purpose and support from within the group.
I also encourage groups to host separate rituals for the children in which the children create and run them, while the adults watch and or supervise from a distance. By allowing these children to create and run their own rituals you are giving them hands-on experiences while also tapping into that simple, yet beautiful, magic. Believe it or not, a child holding up a teddy bear during their ritual can have as just as much meaning as lighting a candle for the elements.
My last advice is to not take your rituals and activities too seriously. Most of the work that you are doing is supposed to be filled with love, peace, and kindness. All of which children are full of. A child may act out during a ritual, but that does not mean they have disrupted or ruined any work that the group has done. Many times a comment may make the entire group laugh, which only fuels the ritual energy. If the child does get out of hand, then the parent can easily remove the child until they have calmed down, and then allow the flow of the ritual to continue.
Children are going to be with and around us whether or not we want or have them. What that means for the community is to take the opportunity to embrace them and help to guide them into your groups. By embracing them, you will help them to grow into an adult who is a thriving member of your group and your community. And all of this is from someone who views children as heathens.