Dear Jasmine: Family Friendly Gatherings

Dear Jasmine,

I help run a local pagan group and we are wanting to make our events more child friendly. What can we do to as a group to be more welcoming to families. How many family friendly events verses the adults only events should be held a year? What about 12-17 year old age range? Can they participate in more adult functions?

Old Pagan Man

Dear Old Pagan Man,

As a mother who loves to go to festivals and outings allot this is a topic near and dear to my heart. Kudos to you for being concerned about everyone in your group. My personal biggest concern with my 3 year old son at a spiritual outing is timing. I look for the ability for me to give my son a nap, and eat at his appropriate times. My husband and I both want him to participate in spiritual functions with us as much as possible with us. We are okay with him being around many of the things other parents would not be comfortable with. Some of these things would be nudity, swords, drinking, fire spinning, or anything that gives him “ideas”. Some parents will not want their children around it at all, while others will take it as a learning experience. The best thing you can do as a leader is to listen to the needs of the parents in your group. In an ideal world parents would be able to bring their children to every spiritual outing they attend. But we know at times that is not always possible. Personally I am looking for a balance of family time and adult conversation time. An example of this for me is festivals that offer child care during workshop times. A collection of volunteers go to a specific area that are appropriate for the age level of the child and do activities with the kids so that parents can go to the workshops without interruption. Most of the big festivals have every participant sign up for community service throughout the event so every person has several time slots to help out and work as a village. They have more advanced activities for the tweens and teens group, and they themselves make their own community. I have often seen the tweens and teens hanging out together at events and wished I had that type of friendship group when I was there age, as I was about that age when I started my pagan path. This set-up gives me personal time to let him go off and play with the kids and me have time to myself to learn and explore, but yet time throughout the day to enjoy the experience with my son.

There are events that are just way to limiting for us as a family at times. We either have to stay home, only one of us attend, or find a sitter. Some of these events are, but not limited to; bars, restaurants, meditations, late rituals, events too close to bed time, events too far away, or anything that involves extreme temperatures. My son goes to bed every night around 8pm, 9 being the latest. If the event starts at 6pm and is an hour away, then I have to leave around 7 to get my son home in bed at the right time. If the event starts at 5, we are golden because that is around our dinner time and we can spend at least 2 hours hanging out and enjoying the event before we turn into pumpkins. If we are going to a pot luck, I know he is not going to make it past a certain time for eating, so I have to make sure we are eating at a reasonable hour. Restaurants are very hard on us as well. The whole sitting and waiting for food thing rarely works for a 3 year old. By the time the food comes he either won’t eat it since he is used to homemade food or he finishes so fast we are shoveling food in because he is asking to go wash his hands on repeat. Coffee shops are another offender, as they rarely have nutritious foods for him to snack on, and can be pretty boring for young children. Meditations and rituals are pretty obvious offenders because 3 year old boys are known for being active and curious. And I fully understand that as a parent I am not going to be able to go to events like this all the time. In my experience, it is the other pagans in the community that want us to attend but forget about the familial limitations.

A good way to make sure you are balanced is to simply look at your schedule of events. When is your next function? When is the next function that families can attend? If you have 10 functions in a row that are just flat out not family friendly and the next one your families can attend is 3 or 6 months away, then obviously that can be an issue. Your families will not be able to bond with those who can go to all the functions regularly. In any group you will have a combination of people who want kids around and those that do not. You do not have to have all functions child friendly by any means. Simply adding in a day out for parents, pagan play date or story time would be an amazing experience. Just remember to never forget the power a community has to help the growth and development of young “paglings”. They will eventually be the communities future.

Brightest Blessings,

Jasmine

Jasmine is a 15 year veteran pagan and Wiccan High Priestess and has been a leader in her local pagan community and done spiritual counseling. To submit questions please emailJasmineMoon@gmail.com.

About Jasmine LunaMadre

Jasmine is one of the founders of a The Prairie Earth Society, a local pagan group in Eastern Iowa. She is also a mother of a 3 year old son, and a wife to an agnostic. Jasmine is one of the rare pagans that can say that Paganism was her first faith. She was raised in an Italian-American, Roman-Catholic family, that decided to let her choose her own path. They were not expecting her to start studying Wicca when she was in her late teens, or to continue for over 15 years and counting. When she went on to college she studied Anthropology and Education. While there she also began studying the Gardnerian Tradition, and was initiated in 2001 at the age of 21. Jasmine was further trained about folk magic by her mentor who is a master herbalist and family traditional kitchen witch. She moved to Iowa and began to practice as a kitchen witch herself, specializing in incense making and Italian-American cuisine. She is now a 2nd degree High Priestess of Enchanted Fire Dance Grove and teacher of the Gardnerian Tradition. Jasmine is also the Author of the blog, www.TheSpiritualMother.com. Jasmine has also attended many pagan festivals over the years such as Phoenix Phyre and Pagan Spirit Gathering and numerous British Traditionalist Wiccan fests and local gatherings. She also plans local workshops and classes and runs a local New Age Book Club. She is experienced in networking and conversing with many pagans from all over the country.

  • Anonymous

    One of the difficulties we’ve run across is the balance between having the children occupied while the grownups do their thing and completely monopolizing their time so that they are away from their parents for most of the gathering or have little time to play and be kids. I find that it’s important as a parent to have mealtimes with my kid and to make sure their spiritual needs are being met, too. Sometimes that means crafting rituals for the whole family and sometimes that means having separate rituals specifically designed for the little ones.
    The former involves layers of meaning in your ritual design. It should at once make sense to the five year old and be meaningful to the community elder. One might also include the children in the ritual so long as its done in a mindful and ethical way with the knowledge and consent of the parents of said children. The latter approach involves simplifying, but not dumbing-down whatever concept you’re trying to convey. Children aren’t stupid; they’re learning. Again, participation helps to focus the little monkey minds on a task while teaching them the parts of ritual. Little ones can be very creative and quite effective when calling quarters or welcoming deities. Here too, it’s important to make sure the parents know what the ritual entails and what the children will be asked to do.
    On a more practical note, I love it when the kidlings are occupied in arts and crafts at gatherings. I fully support this. I don’t love when the kids are sent home with an armful of crap, especially when it involves styrofoam. That does not align with my hippie pagan earth-friendly values.


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