Children, Birth and Sex Education

Pregnant, w toddler.jpgby Rahima Baldwin Dancy
Where do babies come from? What do children need to know in terms of “sex education,” and when? What about when a new baby is going to be born at home?

Young children today are usually quite aware that a baby is growing “inside mommy’s tummy,” and they will sometimes give kisses to the baby or tell you something about him or her during the months of pregnancy. But how did the baby get there, and what will help prepare them for the birth?

Regardless of the question, young children are not asking about the mechanics or even the physical realities–which is why they are usually satisfied with an answer that emphasizes the spiritual realities. If you are telling them the truth, it doesn’t have to be the whole truth and can be augmented as they grow and become “more earthly.” The very young child has just come from the spiritual world and still has one foot there, which is why talking about a little angel or Star Child coming to earth to be their brother or sister makes sense to them–they were recently in that state themselves and are still strongly in touch with their own spiritual reality.

So–if this applies to your family situation–you might say something like, “When you were a Star Child up in heaven, you saw how much your daddy and I loved each other and how much we would love you, too, and you decided to come down and be part of our family. And our new baby saw this, too, and also wanted to have you as big brother (or sister).” Some children’s books that reinforce this understanding include Little Angel’s Journey by Dzvinka Hayda (available on Amazon). This book retells the Waldorf birthday story of the child coming to birth over the rainbow bridge. Birthday by Heather Jarman tells the story of young children, on their birthday, waiting to travel with Father Time from heaven down to earth (from Steiner Books). And, if you don’t know On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman, it’s a real delight (from Amazon).

Here are some other suggestions: “The baby is growing, getting bigger and bigger, and when the leaves are turning colors this fall, it will be time for her to come out and join our family.” “Mommy has a special place between her legs that opens up for the baby to come out and closes back up again. When the baby and mommy will be working together so he or she can come out, it’s called ‘labor,’ which means ‘hard work.’ So mommy might be making noises then, like moving a piano. That’s how hard she’ll be working” (then you could make grunting noises together).

Having been a midwife for many years, I’ve seen many children participate in birth to varying degrees, from going over to grandmas, to wanting to be present every moment, to just missing the birth by a few minutes. It’s important that the parents decide to what extent they want their young child or children to participate and, if so, that they have someone who can take his or her cues from the child, leaving both parents free to focus on this unique labor and birth. My own thoughts at this point are that birth is really intense and, just as a couple wouldn’t have intercourse in front of their child due to the intimate and intense nature of the energy, I would think twice before having a young child present for the actual birth. Having said that, however, I would add that I have never seen a child upset by birth–they tend to be self regulating if someone is sensitive to their needs. However, young children don’t need to be present for the actual “coming out” to take in the message that birth is a normal part of life and is happening with everyone’s love and blessing. Coming in shortly after the birth (or even in the morning), can be plenty soon enough to meet the new baby and participate in the loving atmosphere.

In thinking about having children at birth, the first consideration is that the mother feel comfortable and able to concentrate on the work at hand without having to divide her attention or be afraid of ignoring or frightening a young child. If she feels she can do this with children in the house, then the second most important thing is that there is someone to be with the other child or children who is there only for them and who is willing to miss the actual birth, because young children often arrange to be away at the park or asleep at night when the baby actually comes out.

When I took the Waldorf teacher training, the teachers (mostly from the UK, Germany and Austria), talked about the story/image of babies being brought by the stork and how this was an image of the spiritual, not the physical reality–nobody was trying to say it was “literal,” the more so because children in earlier times were probably even more familiar with birth and farm life. Neither was it a “cute story” or a con for the children; rather, it was a “true image” in describing the spirit of the child coming to earth, accompanied by a white bird like the dove representing the Holy Spirit in the New Testament.

The spiritual realities about birth, combined with a few simple sentences about how the baby comes out are almost always enough for the young child. As the child matures, more information obviously needs to be given. Human Fertility, a guide for teachers (and parents) by Waldorf teacher Linda Knodle contains lesson plans to use in grades 4-7. Her sequel, Lessons for Middle School Issues, is for use with children in grades 8 and 9. She has also written a Rites of Passage Workbook, and all are available from her website, We offer a CD or MP3 of Linda’s talk “Navigating the Terrain of Sexuality.”

Another internationally known writer and teacher, DeAnna L’am, is also a Waldorf parent and has written Becoming Peers for mothers and other women who care about girls’ coming of age. A lot of DeAnna’s work with women involves helping them release their own confusion and pain around menstruation and fertility so they can be clear guides for girls’ becoming women–so it’s never too early to start. We off her book and a CD/MP3 of hers, “Mentoring Youth into Adulthood“; or see her website at

One remaining question is how and when to teach young children about boundaries and body integrity–please note that I use those words instead of “sex education” and “stranger danger”–since most cases of sexual abuse or even abduction involve people well known to the child. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any resources developed from a Waldorf understanding, and much of what is available is far too hysterical, burdening the child with unrealistic expectations. One of the guidelines I do like is from Blue Sky Bridge in Colorado, “Some Simple Tips to Help Keep Your Children Safe from Sexual Abuse.” Their sensible suggestions include listening to your child and maintaining a “secrets-free” home; and teaching your children that each person is in charge of their own body and no one is allowed to touch their body or make them touch another person’s body. Read the complete list here.

Eight Principles for Inspired Parenting

Eight principles for inspired parenting:

1. We need to accept who we are and build up the support we need.

2. We need fathers to be actively involved with children.

3. We need a true understanding of children and their world.

4. We need to trust the natural process of development and not interfere with it.

5. We need to trust ourselves and our children and to let go of guilt.

6. We need to trust our children as individuals.

7. We need to value our parenting.

8. We need to value our home making.

We are our children’s first home, which then expands to include life as it unfolds in the physical house or apartment. When we have children, we are creating a home willy-nilly. The more attention, awareness and creativity we can put into the process, the more home life can become a platform that effectively supports every member of the family, including ourselves.

More from You Are Your Child’s First Teacher:

You, as a parent, are your child’s first teacher, and your home is where the most living and learning take place. This is true whether your child is home with you full-time or enrolled full- or part-time in childcare, preschool, or kindergarten. It is also true regardless of your standard of living. Whether you are living in a cramped apartment or a palatial home, the challenges of creating a home where you want to be with young children relate more to your inner state and intention than to your bank balance.

What is home life like for you these days, and how can it become a support for you and every other member of the family? What can we do in the face of so many forces today working against home being a sanctuary where family members love to be? These are some of the questions that I address in detail in the chapter on “Home Life as the Basis for all Learning” in the new edition of You Are Your Child’s First Teacher and in the recording “Family Matters: Homemaking 101 for Busy Parents.”

It doesn’t matter if you work outside the home or are a stay-at-home mom or dad. You could be married, in a committed relationship, or a single parent. Regardless of the number of hours you spend at home or the degree of your focus on it, you are involved in creating a home one way or another. My experience is that approaching creating a home life with increased awareness can help you reclaim your time at home together so it can nourish rather than drain you.

Creating a home life that can be a sanctuary for every member of the family is a key element in conscious parenting. To decide where to start, it is valuable first to take stock of where you are now. What are things like at your house, and what do they suggest about what’s going on? What’s working and what’s not? To do this, I encourage you to explore a lens suggested many years ago in a talk by Bons Voors, a Waldorf educator from the Netherlands and coeditor of the book Lifeways.

Building on Bons’s example, let’s imagine home life as a simple drawing of a house with four levels: physical, rhythmical, emotional/relational, and spiritual. Each level builds upon and is supported by the one below it.





This can be a valuable exercise to do with your partner because it’s bound to spark conversation. This fruitful exploration can be enhanced by the MP3 recording or the video download or DVD of my talk (available from or by using chapter 2 of First Teacher. This is an exercise you can do now and repeat every few years as your family grows, your children grow older, or whenever you move into a new home. I’m glad to be able to share it with you!

Rahima Baldwin Dancy is internationally known as a midwife, Waldorf early childhood and parenting educator and author of You Are Your Child’s First Teacher. She was co-director of Rainbow Bridge LifeWays Program for 1-5 year olds in Boulder, Colorado and currently works for LifeWays North America as Outreach Coordinator. She continues to support homeschooling parents by offering blog articles and more than 175 different audio and video recordings from the many “Waldorf in the Home” conferences that she produced for parents throughout the years ( Rahima and her husband, Agaf Dancy, have raised four adult children and have four grandchildren.

Mother-Lines of the Spirit

Mother-Lines of the Spirit
Keynote by Carol Lee Flinders

Biological mother-lines are the channels through which our evolutionary inheritance flows. Spiritual mother-lines come into existence when we take our evolution into our own hands. We will explore how they connect us with mothers, daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters in altogether new ways, and with women we may never meet face to face: a Dorothy Day or Aung San Suu Kyi; a Teresa of Avila or Wangari Maathai. They can render us fearless, resourceful and radiant. Distinct, yet joined like partners in a dance, the mother-lines of body and spirit turn and twine within us like the double helix of our DNA.

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Becoming Mother

Becoming Mother–Spirituality, Femininity and Earth Transformation
Keynote by Regina Sara Ryan

Female or male, the task for each conscious human person is to “become Mother.” Whether we have physically borne children or not, the knowledge of “mother”–as the one who facilitates birth, nurturance and maturation, and death and renewal–is present in the cells of the body.

Sadly, this knowledge of “Mother” often remains obscured and unavailable to us. We can, however, turn to one another, to the great “Mothers” from the past (women or men), and to the images and understanding of God as Mother to find the inspiration, courage and wisdom to transform our own hearts, to serve our children and families, and to ultimately celebrate and honor the Earth Mother on whom we all depend.

Regina Sara Ryan is the author of The Woman Awake. Feminine Wisdom for Spiritual Life

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Embracing the Dark: Kali Energy in Life and Practice

Embracing the Dark: Kali Energy in Life and Spiritual Practice
Workshop by Regina Sara Ryan

When we only look to the sublime and blissful images of the Divine for our consolation, we often fail to recognize the face of the Divine in those experiences and energies that do not fit our limiting stereotypes. However, the fierce and erotic Goddesses such as Kali and Smashan Tara must be approached with tremendous respect, awe, humility and caution. Using stories and the contemplation of sacred images of the Dark Mother, this workshop will provide an opportunity to reflect upon and rekindle our longing for Wholeness–for a deeper appreciation of full-bodied spiritual life and practice.

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Mothering Our Lively Sons!

Mothering Our Lively Sons!
Workshop by Janet Allison

Mothering a boy can be exhilarating and exhausting! Understanding the role of biology, testosterone, and environmental stresses means you can help him be his best. Effective language, practical activities and developmental insight can deepen your connection to all the boys and men in your life.

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Nurturing Children and Ourselves

Nurturing Children and Ourselves
Keynote by Cynthia Aldinger

How can we find our way to simplicity in living that supports our own well-being and the well-being of the children we care for and about? How can we do everything we want to do and not exhaust ourselves and our children at the same time? This talk is filled with humor and practical suggestions, including how to handle a TOAD (The Over-Abundance Disease) in your life (hint: you can kiss it or throw it against the wall).

Cynthia is the founder of LifeWays North America, supporting parents and professionals in the vital work of being with young children.

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Honoring Mother Spirit and Our Feminine Gifts

“Honoring Mother Spirit and Our Amazing Spiritual Feminine Gifts”
Keynote by Nancy Poer

We have spiritual gifts as women which we rarely realize or fully treasure. It is just those strengths and gifts these times call for as we face our intense, fear driven, patriarchal, materialistic culture that would sweep away even the sacred space of our homes and replace it with marketplace values and cyber life. This is about reclaiming our sacred power, speaking our truth, and bringing renewed life and light into a world of need.

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The Feminine and the World Soul

With my interest in “Mothering and Spirituality,” the theme for the April, 2010 parenting conference (see right sidebar), I wanted to share with you another interesting book I have found:
The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee (2009. Available from

Vaughan-Lee writes:
“The feminine has a central part to play in the work of global healing and transformation. Her natural consciousness holds a deep understanding of the interconnections of life, how all the different parts relate together: how this awakening oneness can unfold. And every woman has in her spiritual center the sacred substance of creation that is necessary for life’s regeneration. Without the full participation of the feminine nothing new can be born.

A relationship to the feminine is also necessary for the reemergence of the anima mundi, the soul of the world. Buried by masculine consciousness, the world’s soul is crying out for our attention. She has the ancient wisdom and understaning of life’s oneness that we need if the world is to be redeemed.”

Over the past two decades Llewellyn Vaugahan-Lee has given different teachings on the feminine and the anima mundi. Adiditional resources, including free audio and video can be found online at

Anne Baring, co-author of the Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image [also a great book for exploring the feminine!] reviews this book:
“This book is the work of an alchemist–a vitally important contribution to the Great Work of rescuing the human soul from the darkness that currently shrouds it. In this dangerous transitional time, where ignorance, confusion and cruelty abound, its theme of the need for us to recover and comprehend the Feminine is of absolute and urgent relevance.
Few people are able to define and evoke the Feminine in the way that Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee does; in poetic and beautiful prose, he speaks directly from his soul to ours, acting as advocate for the longing of the anima mundi, the World Soul, to be welcomed once again into our lives and our culture. He knows that it is the time of humanity’s awakening: each one of us participates in the mystery of the light hidden within us and within all nature that is being awakened. For exploring this mystery so directly and deeply and with such insight, he deserves our deepest gratitude. Women and men alike will welcome and treasure this book.”

Parenting with Spirit: Working with the Spiritual World

Parenting with Spirit: Working with the Spiritual World
Workshop by Cindy Brooks and Joya Birns

In this workshop, Cindy and Joya focus on the reality of spiritual guidance and ways to connect to this source of inspiration and support in daily life. Working with music, meditation, discussion and artistic process, they develop a practice for ongoing dialogue with the angelic realm.

This workshop expands on Chapter 5 in their book Parenting with Spirit: A Waldorf Guide for the Three Phases of Childhood. We also carry two other CDs from their workshops on Parenting with Spirit: “Waldorf-Inspired Communication and Empathy Skills” and “Working with Negative Behavior in Children.”

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