Starting Out On A Spiritual Path
In today’s world of spiritual variety, people of all faiths are looking to share their beliefs and practices with their children. Even if their beliefs are Pagan Metaphysics.
As with any practice, there are levels of participation based on age. Children often go through a period of learning the basics before they participate in the central practices of the Church or Temple or Circle. This is true with children in the pagan metaphysical realm as well.
In most traditions, children are not permitted to practice magik until they reach puberty. That means being present during a circle, but not participating in the ritual of the circle. It’s not because of an age thing, it’s an energy thing.
Until all the chakras are fully functional and ready to begin work, they can be adversely affected by rituals that deal with energy manipulation (magik). Think about what the physical body is going through during not only their early years of physical development, but the emotional development as well. Especially during puberty, kids are going through a wide array of changes. Both boys and girls fight and deal with hormones, physical changes and emotional pressures each and every day. Adding magik and energy rituals on top of that can be over whelming. Even parents who think their children are wise beyond their years have to face the reality that they are still children who are growing physically. Don’t push them! Allow them to be kids and grow up gradually as nature intended.
What I suggest to parents is that they stick to the basics. The best first rituals for kids under the age of 18 should be about self discovery. Finding their spiritual sanctuary, their personal spirit guides, animal guides and working with them to connect to these in times of stress. If you do this early and make it the first steps in their practices you give them a very powerful tool to use when things do happen not only in their younger years, but as they move through adulthood as well. It can be especially helpful as they get near the teen years and they become less likely to share information with you the parent or guardian. If they have a safe and empowering place to go to, they can confront moments of stress with strength. And hopefully they listen to the good advice they get from spirit.
The best place to start with children of any age, is by teaching them meditation. There are many books you can find specific to children on this, and a number of articles on the web. So check out a few and pull the things you like and work with them at least once a week on starting a meditation practice. And you can read the articles and meditation guides I have on Spring’s Haven.
Talk with your child about what they experience during the meditations. The biggest thing here is to not be judgmental. They’re not going to fully understand what they see or experience, so you’re going to have to help them decipher the images or experiences. But even you may have problems with interpretations. You’re their parent or guardian and you can be too close to the forest to see the message in the trees.
If something does happen that you can’t figure out, let them know they can meditate again later and ask their guides to help them figure out the message and meaning. If there is something that causes you concern, and frightens them, don’t be afraid to ask someone with more experience for help. Feel free to email me if you like.
If you can figure out the message, or even if you can’t; you can use these events as teaching moments. Remember there’s nothing wrong with letting your kid know you don’t have all the answers. It’s better they learn how to ask for help now, instead of thinking they have to figure it out for themselves! That can build frustration and resentment not only for the process and beliefs, but to those teaching them too.
When something happens during the week out side of your meditation time together, try to see if there’s a teaching moment in it. That can be anything from the child asking a question, to them coming home from school talking about seeing a bug on the playground. Nature is always a great teacher; so keep your eyes and ears open when they bring up something that you can use as a connection to spiritual insight or understanding.
Talk to them about things you’re interested in. If they see you making a ritual tool and ask you about it, tell them what it means to you and how it’s used. Look for ways to simplify your explanations and make comparisons to things they can relate to. Remember they’re kids, they haven’t seen the world and don’t fully understand the meaning of some of the words you use. So ask them if they know what an athame is, if not tell them.
One of my favorite sharing moments happened recently. Being part of the The Ænigma Project gives me a whole boat load of topics to share with my son. And he often asks what we’re going to talk about on the show this week. The creator of the show, Paul Cagle and his original co-host Sushi are professional Ghost Hunters. When I recently upgrade my cell phone to a smart phone one of the first apps I wanted to get was a ghost hunters app. Thanks to Paul I narrowed down the apps and settled on one called GhostRadar® Legacy by Spud Pickles. I even wrote a review of the app in Ghost Hunting With Your Cell Phone.
My son loves this app! And thanks to our using it, we have been able to talk about reincarnation, the difference between the spirit and the soul. What ghosts are and how are they different from spirits. Along with a whole variety of other things that involve chakra’s, karma, choices, free will and spiritual blue prints.
Some kids are scared of ghosts, primarily because their parents are scared of ghosts. Often neither one knows a lot about what ghosts are, or they believe the inflated version of spirit and ghosts from horror shows and movies. We talk about ghosts around here all the time, so my son isn’t afraid them or what he sees. He knows when my Dad comes by to visit and lets me know he sees him in the loft or in his room. We often have civil war soldiers pass through or we see them when we’re driving home on the country roads. Each one of these events provides a moment to talk about spirituality and the concepts that go with them.
The ghost hunting together is great fun too! What I like most about this is that it teaches him how to trust his instincts and psychic senses. When a word comes up on the radar, we both try to figure out what the ghost is talking about. Sometimes it’s obvious, other times not so clear but we some how figure it out. Each exercise of doing this is a practice session for him to hone his inner instincts and learn to listen to them, as well as, trust them.
Creating Teachable Moments
Let me say one thing up front about teachable moments. Don’t over do it. Sometimes a kid simply wants to ask you a question and get an answer and that’s all. If you go on and on and on, they’re liable to stop asking you questions. Even if you know there’s a lot to the topic, it doesn’t mean you have to spill out the encyclopedia at that moment. Spread it out a little and that will help them stay interested in what you have to say!
Spend some time going on an adventure or walking around your own yard on a garden tour and see what you discover. Whither you have a son who likes to collect rocks or girls who like to pick flowers. My son loves doing both and that’s rather handy. You can talk to them about the colors they see and what those colors mean. You can talk to them about what the item looks like and ask them what they see; using the item as a tool of insight or scrying.
For instance, I remember walking through a park one day when my son found a lovely purple flower. We talked about its smell and what it reminded him of. An opportunity to talk about aroma and how different smells can remind you of different things, basically a simplification of aroma therapy.
A while later he found a lovely river rock and we looked at its colors and it’s shape. It looked like a Native American Indian moccasin. An opportunity to talk about how our ancestors roamed these woods and used their inner senses to feel the forest and what was in it. The same way animals use their instincts to keep safe. We looked at a bird that was nearby and watched it, watch us. A little later we saw a small herd of deer and we were able to talk about their instincts, what they hear and smell beyond what they see.
In our own yard we found several faery circles one day. An opportunity to talk about faeries and forest sprites. If you don’t know what a faery circle is…when you find a group of mushrooms in a circle like these on the right; it’s a sign that faeries have been dancing and celebrating. Their energy leaves a mushroom circle behind in their place.
These types of little conversations help teach kids to be aware of their surroundings and how to listen to nature. It helps you discuss how nature can give you messages, not only in animal sign and what the different animals or trees or flowers mean to your tradition, but how we can heed their warnings of danger. Something that can serve your kids well out side of nature and into the streets or halls at school. If they are in-tune with the world around them, they can avoid being caught up in a fight or event that might cause them harm.
Remember, teaching your kids about your beliefs isn’t simply about this tool is used for this, or that symbol means that. Or we believe this happens when that happens. It’s about teaching them the connection of self to the natural world around them, seen and unseen. Stop and listen to the sounds in the forest, what do you hear? When you hear a crow talking, what is it saying to you? Don’t be afraid to share what you think or ask them what they hear. You can promote understanding and acceptance of their abilities that you may not know about yet.
Alternative Thoughts and Beliefs
Don’t be afraid to talk to them about other religions! Here in the U.S. especially, kids are highly exposed to Christianity and it’s beliefs. You can’t stop it or shield them from it, so don’t even try. Instead explain to them what others believe and what YOU believe. Don’t say “what we believe” or “we don’t believe that”. Allow your kids to make up their own minds about what they believe. Give them all the knowledge you can and let them make their own decisions.
When doing this it’s very important that you do not put down other religions. Remember how rebellious you were as a kid? If your parents don’t like something, you wanted to do it. Instead teach your children about tolerance and acceptance. There are many beliefs in the world and this is what “they” believe, but “I” believe this. Allow them to tell you what they believe. If it’s a little inaccurate that’s ok, you can use it as a teaching moment to explain. But don’t start that explanation with “that’s not right” or “no that’s wrong”. Instead, simply say “well that’s interesting, but this generally happens this way or nature does this or that”. Make a comparison between what they said to the natural world and you’ll make a better impression.
I remember a few years ago, my son who was 7 at the time, got upset with the sun fish we saw in the lake one day. We were feeding pieces of bread to the minnows and the baby sunfish were coming to get the bread too. In doing so they scared off the minnows. My son was upset about this and tried to scare the sun fish away. I reminded him that they were babies too and they are equally hungry. Even though they’re bigger and different, they’re still pretty fish. As soon as I said that, he noticed the bigger sunfish swimming nearby. In his mind he saw a Momma and Daddy sunfish. It immediately changed his perspective. He saw his own family in the fishes and he started to cry “I didn’t know they were a family”.
Now this moment can give you a lot of things to talk about from a life and pagan metaphysical perspective. Paganism is often described as an “Earth based” religion. I see that description as short sighted and say it’s a universal “Nature based” religion. In either case the primary emphasis is that we believe in the respect of all things, seen and unseen through out the Divine Universe. We are all connected and interconnected within that Divine nature, whither we see it or not.
Teach respect of all things, begins at home. Our home is blessed with being on a lake where we can connect to the water and the life that’s in it. So respect for the fish, caring for the water, the ebb and flow of the tides and how each of those things can be linked to every aspect of life can be at your finger tips.
You can talk to them about the baby sunfish that he thought were bullies, are really lost kids looking for help and attention too. You can talk about the community that are all the same, even though they don’t look the same. You can talk about how they share energy, each trying to work for the common goal; in this case getting a piece of the bread. You can talk to them about the importance of family and how even though the Momma and Daddy let their baby fish go out and try to grab some food, the parents were still there watching, protecting and making sure their kid was safe.
These topics may not be solely about spiritual beliefs, but you may use that conversation later when you’re talking about community rituals, doing things on their own and the dangers they might face by not telling you or talking to you about something they’ve seen or been told. It’s a good way to help them keep safe and not believe everything someone else tells them. Which might get them into trouble, or worse.
Sharing Creative Tasks
As they get older and enter puberty, you can take time to sit with your child and plan out a simple ritual for the moon phase or holiday. Talk about what this time means, its history and why it’s important to you and your beliefs. Ask what their ideas are and what they would include in a ritual, what colors they’d use and why.
Each of these personal moments gives you a chance to share your knowledge, but it also let’s your child teach you. The great thing about kids is that they are more willing to rely on their inner instincts even when they don’t realize that’s what they’re doing. By listening to them you might learn something, but you can also teach them to trust their inner voice and show them that it has value and meaning. It’s also a great confidence builder.
Books & Resources
I highly recommend doing a search on Amazon.com for children books that relate to pagan parenting. There are some great ones out there that have craft ideas, historical stories and promote the positive aspects of following alternative religions.
One of my favorites is: Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions by Starhawk, Diane Baker, Anne Hill and Sara Ceres Boore and Celebrating the Great Mother: A Handbook of Earth-Honoring Activities for Parents and Children by Cait Johnson and Maura D. Shaw. But these are only 2 of those available for parents.
© 2012 Springwolf, D.D., Ph.D. Springwolf Reflections / Springs Haven, LLC. All Rights Reserved.