Childhood Immune Systems
Children should have robust immune systems for their bodies and life.
Nature’s plan is simple. Children develop and grow into their bodies through use, trial and error, and pushing their limits. They hang, twirl, belly crawl, and cartwheel to improve balance and coordination. They whisper, yell, scream, sing, and laugh to strengthen their lungs and vocal cords. To build stronger muscles, heavier and heavier objects are lifted and handled. All their body systems are built up this way: They use them, challenge them, stretch their limits, and end up stronger and healthier.
The same goes for the immune system. The child trains it by being exposed to and then fighting off the contaminants – germs, bacteria, pathogens – found in everyday life. Thus we find that children raised on farms are less likely to have asthma, and children attending daycare during the first six months of life are less likely to develop eczema and asthma. In both environments, farms and daycares, children are exposed to a greater variety of contaminants, and as a result, their immune systems are stronger. They’ve become more contaminant-resistant.
If you raise a child in a 100% sterile environment with no contaminants to ward off, they would be more prone to infectious diseases and have a fragile immune system.
The same could be said of a child’s toughness and perseverance. If you raised a child in an environment free from any obstacles or difficulties, they would end up fragile and vulnerable to life’s adversities. There would be no challenges to overcome, no problems to solve, no disagreements to work through. They would be more prone to being afflicted by life.
Interestingly, the child raised on the farm is not only exposed to a wide variety of contaminants but is also faced with a variety of life challenges and problems unique to farm life, challenges and problems that most definitely stretch their limits. Tasks such as herding an irritable baby goat without getting bitten or helping to move a dozen hay bales by noon will certainly teach perseverance to any child.
Similarly, the toddler in daycare has left the comforts of his home and has to learn how to successfully socialize with a variety of children and adults. They are stretched in new ways. They will try out different ways of handling relationships with varying degrees of success. Some will work, and some won’t, but the child will come away less socially fragile. You could say the child is now more “problem-resistant.” And this is a plus.
A good rule of thumb for the parent to help build up the child’s problem-resistance and become stretched in new ways is this from The Way to Happiness by L. Ron Hubbard: “Try to find out what a child’s problem really is and, without crushing their own solutions, try to help them solve them.”
For children, being problem-resistant is just as important as being contaminant-resistant.
Author: Colin Taufer