By Charles Kassotis
Are you still following your child around worrying that they might stain their clothes? Do you forbid playing outside because they might get dirty? Do you see germs and infections in every step they take? Are you trying to keep away friendly dogs or cute kittens because they might be disease carriers?
Do any of the sentences above represent your attitude towards your child? If yes, you must reconsider. Depriving your child of physical contact with the "Dirty, Outside World" is bad for its health. Sound unbelievable? How can something full of germs be essential for a kid’s development?
First of all, your child, in the delicate years between childhood and puberty, develops its immune system. The immune system is designed to defend the organism against millions of bacteria, microbes, parasites, viruses and toxins. But it needs to be trained; just us muscles need exercise to function properly. In order to recognize harmful germs, it needs to meet them first. Then it creates an archive, where it is all installed. When the time comes for a fight, the immune system will be prepared because it knows the enemy. Pure exposure to various microorganisms and other environmental factors leads to pure immune resistance. That means, that the child will be less susceptible to disease later in life. So, don’t exaggerate in hygiene matters. Let your child’s immune system harden, with the help of dirt.
Your child needs also to be active, run around and feel happy playing outside. Worrying about stains will make the child feel guilty about activities that make it happy. You cannot replace that happiness with clean clothes, or with indoor inactive activities such us TV or video games. This is especially true during the school year. Imagine being seated in a chair while experiencing growth and energy spurts! Getting loose outside home will help the child deal with that pressure.
Don’t underestimate your kids’ explorative skills. By exploring –not the house of course- it discovers the world. Exploration boosts the imagination as well as creativity, social and physical skills. Well-developed physical skills result in a healthy body. Creativity will bring adaptability, and social skills will bring success and mental health. All those will eventually turn an active child, into a lively, successful healthy adult.
Let friendly animals approach your child. They won’t hurt it; they will be of benefit. By keeping animals away you teach your child to do the same. Have you considered having a pet? Children raised with pets show many benefits. Developing positive feelings about pets can contribute to a child's self-esteem and self-confidence. Your child will develop trusting relationships with others much easier. A good relationship with a pet can also help in developing non-verbal communication, compassion, and empathy.
Finally, how important do you think memories are? Memories are moments of our lives, forming our personality. What would you like your child to remember from its childhood memories? Clean, germ-free clothes? Or shiny days outside, filled with laughter and a sense of adventure?
Are you still afraid of dirt? No need to be, after all, dirt is health! So, let your child go and play outside, loose in the dirt. Join in if you get jealous, you might want to get a little dirty too!