When the young pagans are you own, or the children of folk who come to your gatherings, then the issue of teaching is fairly straight forwards. It comes down to the parents to decide.
However, what happens when a seeker comes to you, who is not of an age to legally make their own decisions, and whose parents you have no contact with?
There is a great deal of fear around working with young folk as it is. If you are faced with a pagan teenager, whose parents are not supportive, you may be opening yourself to all kinds of problems and accusations. Teenagers are also adept at lying about their age – they do it all the time to buy alcohol, cigarettes, get into pubs, it’s part of being a teenager, so there’s always the possibility that a young person who comes to you, may be younger than you thought.
Here’s a few things to consider.
Are they genuine? If your seeker is a child who thinks they’re going to be just like Harry Potter or Sabrina the teenage witch, then gently send them away, because they aren’t ready. Recommend them some books and tell them to come back when they’ve read those. If they’ve read a bit and can talk with some intelligence about personal experience, if they are having strange things happen to them and need support, then take them seriously.
Sending them away is the easy option. I know there are working groups who set the age barrier high – I’ve heard of over thirty even, because they want matured and settled folk. However, what happens to the young seeker? Will they stop seeking because you said no? There are (and I have met some) unscrupulous people out there, both in the pagan community, and masquerading as pagan. Saying no to a young seeker means you take the risk that they will find someone far less suitable. If things are happening to them – premonitions, poltergeist, empathy… they may be desperately in need to reassurance and turning them away may result in them seeking medical intervention instead. I don’t personally think that refusing to teach teens is reliably a moral choice, although there are most definitely risks.
Seek parental contact and consent. If you can get it, this is a great asset. Some years ago I took on a student who was fifteen when we started. I talked to her mother, (who is pagan, which helped!) and there were no problems. Said student worked with me for a few years, and is now at college and involved in (possibly running) a moot. If you can’t get parental consent and the young seeker is at odds with their family, tread very carefully. Make sure you do not leave yourself open to any unpleasant accusations.
Avoid any kind of private meeting – teaching online is viable for the kind of material it’s appropriate to offer younger seekers, or meet up in public places, and make sure your student learns to take appropriate precautions.
What to teach? Whatever path you are on, encourage your young seeker to get a good grounding in myths and legends. This is unlikely to trouble parents/guardians, it is risk free learning. Beyond that, I would recommend focusing on ethics, philosophy, green living, nature study and meditation. Teaching a young seeker meditation skills will open the way if they want to go further. It encourages imagination, self possession and mental discipline. You can teach protective visualisations as well. Showing a young seeker how to hold firm mentally, how to be calm and psychically protected makes good sense. These are good skills, there’s little scope for doing anything daft with them. They make a good grounding and enable the young person to feel like they are being taken seriously, without taking them into inappropriate kinds of experience.