Let them eat dirt!
In news that will come as a huge relief to all parents whose instincts have always told them it’s not healthy for kids to try to make their lives - or them - too perfect, this week it looks a lot like the “helicopter parent” is on the way out.
Despite Australian recommendations released this week that children’s lives should be so sanitized they should use sterilizing gel before and after the sandpit, two big international studies have just found too much management of kids and their environment is unhealthy.
News broke this morning of a big Stanford University study which found that far from trying to shield children from germs by sanitizing everything they touch (even toys), it may be good for them to “let them eat dirt”.
Immunologist professor Mark Davis found that the body’s immune system benefits so much from being exposed to bacteria and infection that it creates “memory cells” not only to fight that germ when it encounters it again, but even for infections or viruses the body hasn’t even had.
So much for sanitation recommendations for child care centres released this week suggesting children should not even be allowed to blow out the candles on a shared birthday cake in case they spread a germ.
Turns out that birthday kid with a cold could be doing the whole class a favour. This will be music to the ears of those who prefer to hitch their parenting wagon to the most recent popular trend, “free range” parenting, in which kids are allowed to take reasonable risks in order to learn.
The Stanford study also put another nail in the coffin of hovering anti-vaccinator parents, who believe they can use a collection of boutique alternative treatments to remove the very low risk of reactions to common childhood vaccines.
Exposing your kid to vaccines also triggers this “memory cell” response, by prompting their immune response to infections similar to the one being vaccinated against—as well as the main disease itself.
And then there was the University of Missouri study that also confirmed what us muddle-through (without the rota blades pumping) parents innately felt: the children of helicopter parents resent them.
The bossier the mother is, the more unhappy the kid (research focused on mothers as it was conducted on a group of mothers interacting with their kids).
It seems a trend that has provoked British head teachers to come out and warn that ambitious, pushy mothers and fathers are “condemning children to years of stress and anxiety” has been backed by science.
In bizarre news this week, it was revealed that so hands-on and intrusive have some parents become that they don’t even let children make their own mistakes, and learn form them, when they get to uni.
“Universities have complained about parents joining their sons and daughters for freshers’ week (we call it O-week), with some even sleeping in their children’s dorms.”
At least that’s one helicopter nightmare we haven’t yet seen here.
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