Being a parent – what is important?

Parent information

Dear Parents,

The period of life from the beginning of pregnancy to kindergarten age is a very special time. To be able to experience and accompany this phase in the life of our child, we need to slow down, we need leisure and joy, we need amazement, listening and empathy. Many people have the impression that newborns “still smell of heaven”. Babies can touch us deeply and remind us wisely of what really matters. What is the important thing now?

To offer relationships and establish the ability to form relationships

Being in relationships is an intrinsic part of being human, so we need—even before birth, but especially as a baby and toddler—attention, touch and warmth, including physical warmth and warmth of soul and spirit.

A good framework for this is provided by ensuring regular, predictable, specific periods of care (see also: link to “Nursing gestures” by Rolf Heine) in which trusted caregivers give the child their undivided attention and provide him or her with warmth and full interest in his or her individual needs—deliberately avoiding the influence of media at such times. Breastfeeding is a great way for infants and their mothers to build a relationship. This “pre-digested” nourishment is a suitable gift from the infant’s mother for the beginning of life. Weaning often offers the father the possibility to deepen his relationship with the child. The child needs clear offers of relationship, it requires its reference person to be present and to respond appropriately to its childlike signs and signals: soothing it, giving it comfort, leading it back into a state of balance (regulation), and sharing in its joy and well-being. This kind of relationship helps the child to develop its individuality and form a secure bond with its caregivers (1).

To enable independent activity and self-development

Babies and toddlers need shelter and a prepared environment in order to develop their capacities for exploration, both for exploring their own bodies as well as their surroundings, a space that is peaceful, quiet and free from disturbances. All children need fixed “working hours” in which they can follow their impulses and play at their own pace and thus experience their ability to accomplish things as they develop their ability to move about. This requires a lot of restraint on the part of adults and older children. Play materials should be age-appropriate and not too much should be offered at the same time. Less is more (inviting the child’s own initiative). 

Experiencing nature always has a strengthening and healthy effect, but especially in childhood. This is why it is important to give children opportunities to experience nature in depth and to experience its immediacy, its incomparable diversity and its atmospheres: forests, meadows, water, the animal world and the weather, that interacts with everything. At this age, you don’t have to keep coming up with new ideas—little children love repetition and it strengthens their vitality.

Offer protection against sensory overload

Protecting unborn children, infants and small children from sensory overload is a central task today. The child not only learns with all its senses, it is actually completely a “sense organ”, as Rudolf Steiner put it (2, p. 168). Children are even more sensitive to the omnipresent stimuli of the environment than adults. Modern media are initially able to pacify and distract children but lead to increasing restlessness and nervousness over the long term.

Respecting a small child’s need does admittedly limit parents and may exclude them, to a certain extent, from the social life that they have been accustomed to. It also becomes important to intensify those relationships that can be geared to the needs of the child and which can also help relieve the child’s caregivers (such as other friendly families, grandparents, and people who enjoy living together and playing with children). Children enable adults to rediscover the world through all of their senses and develop new appreciation for the joy that comes in this process. Meeting the needs of both parents and children places great demands, particularly because of the young child’s openness to sensory stimuli. At the same time, it is important that parents’ lives are not limited to work and childcare, and that they consistently create space for a fulfilling partnership and for self-care.

To anchor oneself spiritually through self-development

Being a parent is a beautiful, grand and often difficult task and it is a special opportunity to develop oneself. Nowadays it is a challenge not to succumb to all of the things that want to distract us from ourselves, particularly the distractions of the digital world. When parents find a “spiritual home” for themselves which brings meaning, orientation and light into life, children will experience a positive formative influence that strengthens their own sense of security and resilience. Such spiritual roots will help parents to keep calm when dealing with their child and also develop an eye for what is essential and most meaningful. A regular evening review of the day can be helpful, in which you look at the day’s events and your own behavior from a certain distance (3). This will gradually give you a “longer view” and healthy self-assessment, and it will prepare you well for the night. Another possibility is to look back on the day with your partner, where you tell each other in 5–7 minutes about your own experience of the day without the other person commenting on what you say. These two exercises can have the effect that you gradually—eventually, even automatically—learn to better perceive each other, which is the basic prerequisite for good cohabitation and developing a sustainable partnership.

To help ensure healthy sleep

Children and parents need enough sleep to gather new strength for the challenges of the next day. During sleep, we process our day’s experiences and make new capacities our own. Babies must first learn a sleep rhythm that gradually adapts to the day-night rhythm (see also link to the clip on sleep from the video “Willkommen”). Healthy sleep is favored by a rhythmic way of life, by protection against over-excitation, by enough movement during the day, by sufficient rest, especially before going to sleep (thanks to a bed-time ritual) and not least by the inner tranquility that the child’s caregivers develop within themselves. The goal is to give the child as much company as necessary to create a process that enables them to gradually find quiet and sleep on their own.

1 Glöckler M, Goebel W. A guide to child health. 4th ed. Edinburgh: Floris Books; 2013.

2 Steiner R. Waldorf education and anthroposophy. Vol. 2. Great Barrington: Anthroposophic Press; 1996.

3 Steiner R. Rückschau: Übungen zur Willensstärkung. Zusammengestellt von Martina Maria Sam. Basel: Rudolf Steiner Verlag; 2010.