Sexual Education for Children Under the Age of 7

I have myself  received and seen many questions on other on-line forums and discussion groups regarding sexual education for the child under the age of 7.  Children are very curious about their bodies, about other children’s bodies and yes, about sex.  This especially occurs at age four and again at age 6.

I have no problem calling a vagina a vagina or a penis a penis or talking about how boys and girls are different.  I personally am very grateful our Creator made us different!

However, when a six year old starts asking direct and specific questions regarding  how a sperm gets into an egg or how “males and females mate” or something very direct along those lines, I have a few thoughts.

From an anthroposophical perspective, the child is a spiritual being on a spiritual journey.   We address the under-7 child with these questions the same way we address other questions children under-7 child asks.  We provide pictorial imagery through fairy tales (think of the number of fairy tales where a baby just “shows up” after the parents wish for a baby- Thumbelina comes to mind, the Polish tale of The Hedgehog Prince and many, many of the Grimm’s tales).   These really point to the spiritual longing for a child to be a part of the family and I  think is a lovely thing not to bring in right the moment a child asks a pointed question, but at bedtime or at other times since you know this is on your child’s mind!  (Yes, nothing like asking a pointed question that like in line at the grocery store and you launching into a repetitive version of The Hedgehog Prince right then and there, LOL). 

Nature tales, not pointed factoid nature tales of animals mating, but of animals creating a family and a space for new life also come to mind.  Looking for animal babies on nature walks, looking for baby birds in nests, rejoicing at all the new life about and around is an important part of establishing reverence for

Some families answer these types of questions from a religious or spiritual  perspective and say that God helped put the baby inside Mommy, or that the baby choose the Mommy and Daddy and big brother or sister and how lucky we all are!  Sometimes if you are just calm, warm and silent for a moment the child will provide their own answer to their very own question!  That is a special thing to be witness to!

You may say, well, if my child is asking a very direct and pointed question, isn’t it my job to answer that question?  Yes, but in an age appropriate way.  A six-year old is not ready to hear an intricate accounting of sexual intercourse and is at the height of sexual curiousity and  play, so  providing pictorial imagery that coincides with the wonder and beauty of new life is most appropriate.  The more factual (and often devoid of wonder and reverence) descriptions found in “child discovery” kinds of books can be kept for later as the child reaches greater depths of understanding and maturity than an under-7 child possesses.

Sometimes children ask us innocent questions and are not asking us to provide the factual answer we as adults think they are asking.  The point is not to pull them into their heads regarding all this, but to point out this journey of new life that is created by love.  Honor that, cherish that, nurture that, and provide the right information in the right way at the right time.

Blessings,

Carrie

Parenting the “High-Needs” Older Child

This post is one that has been hard to write, as there are many varying perspectives out there.  Typically one reads something along the lines of, yes, there are children who have “difficult”  behaviors, but if Mother and Father just get through it, the child will grow up to be a wonderful person.

Sometimes it seems these authors never really had a child with “difficult” behaviors to be gotten through for years on end, right?? 

I am talking in this post about children who are essentially within normal development, not children who have been diagnosed with ADHD, sensory processing disorders or autism spectrum disorders. 

I have a few things that I have found to be helpful with my own “higher-needs, intense child”, not in any special order:

1.  Get rid of that label. When I first was a parent, I thought “high-needs” was wonderful…..Now  I think this label serves its purpose when the child may be in infancy so you don’t feel as if you are going insane, but really as the child grows, I think it is better to just accept where they are and what things are more challenging for them than labeling it.   Every child brings challenges and things that need balancing and guidance and I think that can be easy to lose sight of if you consider  your child “hard” and everyone else’s child “easy”. 

I have also heard too many parents refer to their “higher-needs” child with the child standing right there!  The child truly does understand this, and even if you think this is a nice way of saying “difficult”, the child translates it as such and feels something less than positive about themselves!  Stop it!  Stop telling the horror stories of your child’s infancy if your child is there, and even see if you can re-frame those thoughts in your head before they come out of your mouth.   How about these instead:  “We got through together the best we knew at the time.”  “We did a great job in that situation.”  “There were positive moments.”  

Positive thoughts equal positive parenting, which is often exactly what this little person needs and longs for because sometimes these children are not the first to look on the sunny side!

Secondly, think about the fact that human development takes a LONG time and that three, four and five and even six  is still little, is a period overall of rapid growth and often disequilibrium, and that in many cultures the child is perceived as  not really having a set personality from infancy onward the way we look at this in the  United States.  Ask yourself, how would I be treating my child if I thought this “higher needs”  was not so ingrained within them?  Would I be able to be calmer and patient because I was guiding them, teaching them?  Maybe not, but interesting food for thought.  Your child may be a much, much different person at 7 or 8 than even at 4,  5 or 6.  Seriously!

2.  Stop drawing individual attention to that child’s behavior as much as possible, and accentuate the positive as much as possible. Less words for judging (because even saying, “Gosh, you are feeling aggressive today!” or “You are  being so persistent” is judging in my book.  Why go there?).  Try meditating over your child while they sleep, try warm hugs and smiles, try really looking at the positive with your own warmth toward the child and finding the humor.  Humor can diffuse a lot.

3.. Understand normal developmental stages and what works best – less words and don’t reason,   more movement, more play, more imagination, more humor. 

4.  Be ready to accept your child’s behavior, pull back and be okay with that.  This can be a real challenge for the adult, and I have been there.  It was a challenge for me.    So your three-year-old doesn’t do well at playgroups, so what?  It used to be a child really didn’t have any play dates until they were over four and a half or so – maybe there was wisdom in that!    It used to be small children were mainly at home with siblings and not off to gymnastics and art and museums and such.  If your child doesn’t do groups well, look at it not as a character flaw, but normal development!  It is really okay, and again, unless your child has been diagnosed with some sort of autism spectrum, it is likely to change as they grow. 

5. Be calm and be patient.  Try to understand things from your child’s point of view, and let your RHYTHM carry things. Have some limits that just include what you do, “We will play after lunch.”  “We wash our hands after going to the bathroom.”  We works really well.

6.  Be aware of any reflux, food allergies or things within the environment that your child is sensitive to that triggers things not going well.

7.  Make sure this child is getting enough rest and sleep.  That is an absolute cornerstone of rhythm.   

8.  Are you feeling positive and centered? C’mon y’all, you knew I was going to say that one!  Work on your own stuff so you can be what this child needs.  Guard your words and your thoughts toward the positive and away from the negative. 

Most importantly, FORGIVE YOURSELF.  You are a wonderful mother, you are working hard, you wouldn’t be thinking and worried about this otherwise!  Give yourself a break!  Love yourself and use that as a model for how you can love and forgive your child!

9.  It is okay to help your child play.  Children under the age of 7 are in the height of the imitative phase, and may NOT be able to come up with what to play out of their heads.  It is okay to help them out – set up play scenes, give them ideas (“I am the old woman of the villager who is washing dishes and you are coming to my village on  a train!  Here is a train cap and train whistle!”)  Invite them to help you with practical work.  Tell them stories and things that may spur their play.  Your oldest child might really need this help, your younger ones will have the older one to imitate.

10.  Try to spend some time alone with this child every day in a positive way.  Whether this is just curled up together reading a book, tossing a ball, rolling around on the floor, just be together. The more you are together in positive ways  the more  you can love each other.

11. Again, this post was not geared toward children who have been diagnosed with something specific, but if you think your child is having issues with anger, or processing sounds or textures, or whatever, get help.  Don’t wait!  Trust your gut instinct because you are the expert on your child,  you know your child best, and you are the advocate for your child!

Peace and cyber – hugs,

Carrie

“The Brain Trust”

Not too long ago, my husband took me aside and talked to me about my life.  He essentially said there were several friendships and organizations he noted I was nurturing, but he could tell the effort I was putting forth was not being met equally from the other side.  (Has anyone out there ever had that experience?)  He explained to me that he would love to see my cultivate some friendships that were especially supportive to me and nourishing to me.  He asked me, “Who in your circle of friends truly nourishes you when you spend time with them? Have you seen any of them lately?”

Well, I sat down and made a list and then I picked three ladies off my list whom I don’t get to see as much as I used to, and I picked up the phone and called them.  We all agreed to meet for dinner at a local restaurant without our children for  true night out to nurture ourselves as women and as friends.

What a delightful and illuminating evening!  What wonderful, frank conversation we had as we discussed our lives and held council together.  Three wonderful souls surrounded me that night, and I hold them as my “brain trust” – the women with whom I can speak with and garner support from.

How much time are you spending on friendships or organizations or on things that are just not nurturing your soul?  Or, conversely, do you have any close friends whom you can really talk to?  I think every woman really needs that. 

My husband is my best friend, but he often reminds me men can be true problem solvers and not always as patient regarding the “venting” of life that another woman can provide.  Other women can give us strength and wisdom as we travel this path.

I urge you to connect with your close friends and value your relationship,

Carrie

The Power of Being A Positive Mother!

Today we had some friends with their children  over to swim and I looked around in amazement at how much the children  had grown – how many of them have already “thinned out”, how many were all legs and such.  It was truly a time to enjoy the marvels of their healthy bodies running and playing and swimming under the sun.

And what I realized in that shining sunlight was that these were what a friend of mine would call “tender and precious” children.  It is not that these children don’t have their own bumps in the path, or their times of disequilibrium as they grow and mature, but that they are truly tender and precious – just like their beautiful, wise and wonderful mothers!

Because all of us are spiritual beings on a spiritual path.  My path is to draw closer to God throughout my lifetime.  How much are we called to be positive beacons for our children,  to lift our children up to the next level, the next place, to support and love unconditionally?  How much are we called to just love one another and these beautiful beings who chose to share their souls with ourselves and within our family?

There are so many myths surrounding motherhood in our society – that motherhood somehow forces a woman not to use all of her skills, that motherhood somehow stunts a woman’s growth in her life, that motherhood is somehow “just being a mother”.

We have the unique opportunity to model for our children the very best qualities of ourselves and our society.  We have an incredible opportunity for self-examination and self-discovery.  Why does this behavior bother me so?  How can I surrender myself and decrease myself and increase my neutral, calm, centered peacefulness more?  How can I be a better listener?  How can I use less words but still gently guide my child as needed?  Motherhood  provides us the opportunity to ask the difficult questions of our own values and priorities and really solidify that.

Being a positive mother is one of the most wonderful gifts you can give your children.  Use your words so wisely, so carefully with your tender and precious children.  We are all adept at finding one another’s faults, those weaknesses.  Back off and also see the good, see the wonderful moments as they are.  See the things that people say to you with the best underlying intention that you can imagine. See the things your children do with the best underlying intention possible.  As a Waldorf parent, I believe that small children are truly neither good nor bad, but again, on this spiritual path and learning.  I have tremendous influence here.  I am a woman of worth for my children and my family. 

Encourage your children, encourage other mothers, encourage your spouse and encourage yourself. 

Be wonderful in living this moment together,

Carrie

Does Your Child Know What Is Best?

Okay, nationally syndicated family psychologist John Rosemond and I do not agree most of the time when I read his column and approach.  (Sorry, Mr. Rosemond, I am not sure if this is because of a gender gap or a generational gap or what).  But, as I read his column in my local newspaper  this past Saturday, I had to agree with him.

Here is something he wrote that I think is excellent food for thought for today’s parents:

“A child, lacking farsightnedness, does not know what is in his best interest.  He is apt to prefer that which is bad for him and reject that which is good for him.  His parents and teacher must provide the restraint and direction he cannot provide himself.

Proper restraint and direction are essential to turning the anti-social toddler into a disciple who will trust and look up to his parents, follow their lead and subscribe to their values.  And “proper” means with lots of love.  (My bolded added), (and yes, I wince I bit with the whole “proper restraint “ phrasing but do read on and here is the punchline……).

…..In this regard, all too many of today’s parents are trying to pull the horse with the cart.  They think discipline is all about shaping proper behavior by manipulating reward and punishment.  That’s not discipline; that’s behavior modification.  Discipline is the process by which a child is taught to think properly.  A child who thinks properly will behave properly, but the converse is not true.  A child who only learns what behaviors are appropriate to what situation may become nothing more than a clever manipulator.”

He goes on to say, that in effect, until the child’s values are formed, the child has to be guided and directed.

Okay, so I don’t always agree with Mr. Rosemond’s wording, but I agree in some sense with the spirit of what he wrote.

There are several  challenges  that I see with parents and their attempts at guiding their children  today. One is that parents frequently over-explain themselves and in essence try to guide their three, four, and five year old by speaking to them in  they way they should be speaking to a ten year old.  It is a real problem that I see.  The explanation is essentially, many times, not just a reason for doing or not doing something, in a short sentence,   but in essence a long debate trying to garner the child’s agreement with what the parent needs instead of just being kind, being gentle, but sticking to what the parent said in the first sentence.  The children  really don’t need the essay!  It does not mean you are not loving, kind and gentle – but you can do this without so many words!  Be warm, use humor, SMILE!    I know you can!

The other challenge that I see is that parents have no grasp on developmental stages.  “Why won’t they listen?”  “When do they understand no?”   comes up all the time on the gentle discipline boards I am on for children under the age of 7!    Waldorf understands this so well, and has so many gentle techniques to assist in non-wordy guidance for your small  child.

You must have the gentle, physical presence and follow through with a small child, and even for the very ephemeral, short-memory, easily distracted seven year old.  Steiner’s stages of development were right on, and if we think of seven and eight year olds at at the beginning of a new stage and  not so much as the “old school aged” children we will do much better.

The last challenge I see is the reluctance of parents to set any boundaries at all.  There has to be boundaries, as this is the only way we can all function in a household together, and boundaries help a child learn how to function in the society we live in where it will not be all about them.    And guess what, because you are the parent, because you have the most experience in life, because you bear more responsibility for the things that happen in your household, you get to set the boundaries.  Step up to the plate and set the boundaries in a loving way!

None of this means we don’t listen to our child, that our child doesn’t have input, that our child is not loved and cherished.  But it does mean that we understand the process by which a child develops, that we understand the process by which a child develops values and develops morality is not all at once, and we cannot speed up this developmental process by talking a child’s ear off anymore or providing punishments and rewards any more than we can speed up when they are mature and capable enough to drive a car.

A few thoughts,

Carrie

Creating A Family Mission Statement

My husband and I are in the process of writing a mission statement, has anyone out there ever done that?  It is a truly interesting process, and for those of you who are interested, I thought I would outline some steps regarding creating a family mission statement of your own.

First of all, sit down with your spouse or significant other and talk to them about this.  Discuss with each other the fundamentals of life, such as:  What are the attitudes in our family regarding money?  What do we feel the place or importance of education is in our family?  How does our family regard religion or spirituality, and how does this play into our everyday lives?  What is the role of activities outside of our family?  Is the environment extremely important to us and how do we reflect that?  Is helping other people or participating in our neighborhood, church or synagogue, or community essential?  For those of you who are parents, do you have a view of childhood development or loving guidance that really plays center stage in your daily life?

It is an eye-opening experience to have these conversations with your significant other!  It can also take a long time, and this is not a step to be rushed.  Really talk about these things, and think about them and ponder them. What is most important to you both as you shape your family? 

Then talk to the other adults in your house if you have extended family living with you.  Some sources say to then sit down with your children  with the value statements you and your partner came up with and see what they have to say.  Some mothers I have spoken with talk about how you can ask your children for adjectives that they would use to describe the family, what the children think  is most important to mother and father, what they think about their family. 

I think this step could be quite head-oriented and somewhat difficult to grasp for the under –nine crowd.  Perhaps something better for you and your partner may be  to set your mission statement as you together create your family environment (and then change the mission statement to include your children’s ideas as they grow and mature, of course!)  So I guess the inclusion of children, for me personally , would really  have to depend on the ages and maturity  of the children involved.  Some older children may have valuable input, or at least a specific idea or example of something where you could tie this to a bigger value for your mission statement, whereas a three or four year old probably will just parrot whatever  their big brother or sister has to say!  I know this is not a popular view nowadays, in the age of democratic and consensual family living, but I thought I would throw it out there that you really are in charge of setting the tone for your own home first and foremost!  As always, take what resonates from my writings and ideas and adapt it to your own family.

However you decide to do this process, you would then write down the value statements or ideas that family members come up with in sentences, as many sentences as you need.  You could then see if any similarities exist among the value statements where you could group them under one heading so to speak.  For example, “health” to you may include physical health, spirituality practices, alternative health care, eating styles and communication styles, breastfeeding and attachment parenting.  

For older children some families provide follow-up sentences to each value sentence that explains how this value would be implemented – for example, if living simply is a strong value, perhaps examples of follow-up statements would include buying used whenever possible, considering the reduction of packaging in purchasing decisions, treating the earth kindly, involvement in environmental justice kinds of activities, etc.

Once you have your family’s mission statement you can put it somewhere and frame it for easy reference – do not just tuck it away in a drawer!  This should be the touchstone of discerning what is essential for you and your family.  It should help you determine what you will participate in and what you won’t, and how you will live. 

Mission statements are living documents that need to updated as your family members grow and mature; set regular dates to review, revise, re-frame your thoughts.

Perhaps all or part of this process may appeal to you and your family; please leave a comment in the comment section below !

Peaceful family living to you and yours,

Carrie