I do not consider myself to be that different from most people. A year ago I left the fundamentalist church I was raised in and active in for thirty years and that much of my family still actively participates in. My children, who are 8 and 10, were raised in that religion also, although we were always struggling to go to church regularly and to participate the way my family and the organization expected. Now, just over a year later, I am very happy to be a Pagan following a Wiccan Solitary Path and my kids are figuring out what they want to do. I thought I could share some of the things we have done to make this transition.
This was a process of consideration and soul searching, plus giving myself the time to decompress from my old mindset and not make any immediate life altering decisions based on topsy-turvy emotions or other peoples timetables. For six months, after choosing to leave 'Christianity', I simply didnt think about any future plans. I gave myself time to relax and not think about it. It is a major step to remove yourself from any religion, especially one you were born and raised in. It isn't a bad thing to simply 'be' for a time. (This can be a different amount of time for everyone. You'll know when you're ready.)
After giving all of us some downtime to relax and come to terms with the past, trying to fit into a religion that did not work for us, the first thing I did was read lots and lots of books on non-Christian religions. After a couple of general information books on many different religions I narrowed my focus to Wicca. I felt a deep connection with Wicca right away and decided to continue learning about it until I either felt it wouldn't work for me or I was satisfied that it would.
At this point I was dealing with my own feelings and thoughts and hadn't talked to my kids much about it, except for some general discussions about why we weren't going to our old church anymore. I felt that I needed to get at least a little handle on my feelings before going in-depth with them.
What follows are some of the things that I felt, and still do feel, were most helpful during this transition for both my children and myself.
Read everything you can get your hands on about your chosen path or if still choosing, on many paths. Read many different authors, books, magazines, on-line sources, e-mail lists, etc. Part of this for me was reading about my old religion from outside perspectives, secular Bible scholars etc. This helped me to put to rest the lingering guilt I felt over leaving Christianity. This convinced me that Christianity did not have "The Truth", so I didn't have to feel guilty about not being able to fit myself into their mold. Working this out to my own satisfaction also enabled me to help my children deal with their own guilt about leaving the church. It is amazing how early that guilt is instilled in children.
TALK / MEDITATE / WRITE
It is very helpful to have at least one person to talk out what you are learning. My husband and I spent many hours talking about Paganism, Christianity, and what I thought/felt about what I was learning vs. what my old religion taught. Also, making some regular quiet/private time (I know - I know when can you fit that in?!?) to meditate and write in a journal was very healing, and helpful in making this drastic change in my life and worldview. I usually did my thinking when my kids had gone to bed or were involved in some project that did not require my help.
These first 2 things really helped me to explain to my children why I was doing these things and making these choices. Even though I still had/have much to learn about my chosen path I feel clear enough in my own mind to talk to the kids about it and to let them come along with me if that is what they want.
LET GO OF THE GUILT
You can't truly move on to something new until you fully let go of the old. For me this meant that I needed to research my old religion from a number of perspectives and realize that they did not have all the answers. They are just another religion not 'God's chosen people' to the exclusion of everyone else. Once I realized this I was able to let go of the feeling that I had failed. I was able to really believe that it just wasn't the right path for me.
LEAVE STUFF LYING AROUND!
Once you are ready to talk to your children about this new path you are on, or your search for that path, start leaving interesting looking books, magazines, and tools laying around so that they can find them. (For me this is practically unavoidable!) When they ask about them you have the perfect opening to talk to them about your new beliefs. Answer their questions and expand on it if they seem interested but be willing to drop the subject if they lose interest in the conversation. They will be much more likely to bring it up again and ask more questions if they aren't deluged with information when they bring it up. You can also bring up the subject if you want to tell them something, but still be willing to drop it for the moment if they don't seem interested in continuing the conversation.
This may be one of the most important steps. You don't have to be deadly serious all the time. Find fun ways to celebrate the holidays, tell stories, make things together while talking about the symbology of what you are doing, help them create a personally meaningful alter in their room, read myths together, find Pagan music you all like and listen to it, dance and sing together. Don't feel bad if you're not accomplishing a ton of this kind of stuff these are just ideas, I haven't done all of these myself - - yet.
FREEDOM TO CHOOSE
Allow your children to choose whether or not they want to join you on your path. Spirituality is a very personal thing. For it to be meaningful to them it has to be of their own choosing. Whatever path your children want to explore and whatever path they finally choose, let them know that you will love and accept them no matter what. Give your children the same encouragement to talk out their feelings and thoughts that you hopefully had. Give them the freedom to say whatever they feel, positive or negative about the old religion and the new.
My children have been much happier discussing all manner of religious ideas, thoughts and thinking patterns since they have been in control. They can choose our old path, my new path, some completely different path, or no path at all and I will help them with any of those choices. They are also free to change their minds at any time and choose a new path. Christianity never gave me that freedom of choice, but I will give it to my children. I believe spirituality is a very individual thing. No one else can or should tell you what is right for you, and this right belongs to children too. But we can help them find what is out there. We can help them think about and experience what they wish to so they can find their own pathwith the security of knowing we would never reject them for their choice.
Kathleen Staley is a homeschooling/unschooling mother of 2 children, ages 8 and 10, who works at home. She lives in the mountains in Arizona with her husband, kids, and 2 border collies. When not working or helping the kids with their interests she loves to read, listen to music, play with the dogs, write, think, and just 'be' outside.