Spirituality Page: Rites of PassageIncluding Children in Ritual, Part 1
© Sanja. Used with permission.
Author's Biography: I am a 25 year old mother of a 5 year old boy. I was born and grew up in Croatia, and later moved to Britain, where I live with my husband and our son in a nice little Pagan-friendly town. I studied physics and at the moment I'm finishing my degree. I was brought up by atheist parents and, after trying out a number of both conventional and unconventional religious paths, I have found Wicca about a year ago. I play a guitar, write an odd song or two and absolutely love reading anything I can get my hands on.
A lot can be said about the matter of including children in rituals. One of the big questions is should we do it or not? If you are not open about your religion with your child then you obviously won't include them, but even the people who teach their children about Pagan ways sometimes chose not to go that far. Some think it's just too complicated, some don't think their children are ready, some just want peace and quiet in the circle and all of those things are definitely worth thinking about. Some others are the matter of safety (how safe it is to have a child around all those candles?), can children actually appreciate the rituals, and if you are very set in your ways (of how you do it), can you change them so they fit your child too?
I will try to talk about some of those questions, but the only one who can really answer them is you. I have read a lot about it, but none of it really taught me as much as my own trial and error.
The matter of safety is the shortest and most straightforward one. Some people use many candles in their work I suggest using as few as you can. Make sure to put them in stabile candleholders and too keep them as much out of the way as possible. Warn your child/ren that you will be using candles and to stay away from them.
And is your child ready? I don't think it depends on the age. Believe it or not, it mostly depends on you. If you can make it simple and fun, your child/ren will enjoy it and learn from it. When planning your rituals, it's important to be flexible. If you are already teaching your child about the Pagan ways, ritual work is just one step further. But be prepared, children can have their own ideas about it and you will have to compromise.
Every child is different. Even when they are the same age, same sex, live in the same town, even have the same parents… every child is different. As a parent, I'm sure you know that. But it's very important to remember that when you plan your rituals with children. Different children like different things. My 5-year-old son loves dancing and singing, but only if someone (read: mummy) sings and dances with him, or at least, plays the guitar. He is always so full of energy, always running and jumping around, always playing with what I tell him not to touch, and always, always talking. Our neighbour's little girl likes dancing too, but she doesn't want to sing at all. She runs around only when there are other children doing the same thing, otherwise she is somehow quiet. Other children that I know are each different in their own way. Some like using your pots as drums, some just sit quietly and play with their toys, some always want to be in charge and want to do everything themselves. Try including the things your child likes in the ritual work. And don't force them to do what they don't like doing. Is it really as simple as that? Only if you are really prepared to accept it and act accordingly.
Can the children really appreciate the ritual work? There I can only speak for my own son - he really enjoys it. Now that I've found the 'right formula', he just can't wait for them. But it took a lot of work, a lot of trial and error and a lot of patience from my side to make it work the way it does now. For example, I include him in rituals of house blessing and protection. He is fascinated with magic and he feels a lot better living in our house when he knows he helped in a ritual for it's blessing.
Including your children in ritual work can also teach them to keep a positive mind about things. If you show them how magic works when we really set our minds to something, they will try to stay positive even if bad things happen. And not only that, it will also show them, first hand, what do we use the magic for and what are the effects. Discuss it with your children and show them how did the things work out (or didn't). It's important to learn from everything, good or bad, so make sure you don't only pick the examples of success.
And in the end, the most important thing - have fun. If your children aren't happy doing it, don't make them. Try to see what is it that they don't like. Change the ways you do things and ask them for their ideas and suggestions. And if it just doesn't work, accept it and try again a few months later (or whenever you feel they're ready). Make sure they know you're not upset about it and are not blaming them for anything.