Kids and Loveys: Why Some Children Need a Comfort Object

Kids and Loveys: Why Some Children Need a Comfort Object

Why are some kids so obsessed with their teddy bears or blankies?


By Judy Koutsky

Does your little one carry a teddy bear or favorite blanket everywhere he goes? Do you ever wonder what it represents and when is a good time to say goodbye to the comfort object? We talked to some experts to get the lowdown on loveys and what they mean for child development.

1. Why are comfort objects important? Teddy bears, blankets, and other “loveys” are called transitional objects by therapists -- and most family psychologists agree that they are essential for healthy child development. “Creating an attachment to a teddy or blanket is a way for infants and toddlers to feel a sense of security and comfort when they are away from their parents," says Kirsten Li-Barber, an assistant professor of psychology at High Point University. These transitional objects are also ways for your little one to learn to self-soothe when sleepy, anxious, and frustrated, says Fran Walfish, psychotherapist and author.

2. When should you be concerned? If a child seems to maintain a very strong attachment well into elementary school or has developed a sudden attachment or a change in the intensity of the attachment to a security blanket or teddy, it may be an indication of stress or anxiety, says Li-Barber. Talk to your child, make sure that he feels supported and loved at home, and make sure everything is OK at school.

3. Should you set boundaries for how often and where the child can have the lovey? As your little one gets older, you can establish boundaries that are age appropriate. For example, your child can be permitted to bring the lovey on an outing, but she must leave it in the car. Or if you’re doing a playdate with another child, he needs to leave the comfort object in Mom’s bag, suggests Rachel Needle, a clinical psychologist. If you’re trying to leave the comfort object at home, Needle suggests allowing your child to make choices about where to store the item, such as on a shelf, to increase the child’s sense of control.

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4. Decreasing the dependence on the lovey. As children grow older, their dependence on inanimate objects for security should naturally fade away. When your child enters preschool, you can talk to your little one about additional boundaries while being sensitive to the child’s anxiety about entering a new environment, says Robyn Cassel, a clinical psychology resident. Some tactics that work? You can tell your child that the other kids might want to play with the lovey. You can suggest keeping it safe in a cubby or backpack. As your child becomes more comfortable with his or her sense of self and more practiced at self-soothing, there will be less of a need for the object.

5. Getting rid of the object. Most therapists agree taking away your child’s loved item is not recommended. “Bottom line: Never give away beloved attachment objects without your child agreeing,” says Walfish. Instead, have an open and truthful dialogue with him explaining why it may be time to give it up. “Children find security and safety in their environment and they will let you know when they are ready to give it up,” says Stacy Haynes, a counseling psychologist at Little Hands Family Services.

In the meantime, let your child have his lovey. Soon enough, he’ll forget he even had one.

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Does your child carry around a teddy bear or other comfort object?



Judy Koutsky is the former Editorial Director of KIWI magazine, a green parenting publication. She was also Executive Editor of Parenting.com, AOL Parent and BabyTalk.com. Follow her on Twitter @JudyKoutsky.

Image ©iStock.com/ideabug



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