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.
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.