First with Kids: Covering Your Transitional Object Concerns

transitional object

Parents have recently appeared less secure about their child still holding on to their favorite blanket or stuffed animal, even though they are no longer infants or toddlers.  Well, this week let me cover your concerns with some information on this topic.

Is having a security object normal?

Having a security object like a blanket or stuffed animal is a normal and healthy phase of a young child’s development. It provides a child with emotional comfort. This comfort is especially important during times of stress as a toddler makes the transition from complete dependence to independence. This development is a transition, thus the name transitional objects.

Transitional objects are not a sign of insecurity or weakness. In fact, it’s a good idea for parents to create a transitional object for their child, such as a blanket or stuffed animal. Between 6 to 12 months of age, it’s smart to designate an item that can be associated with the comfort you provide your child as a parent. You’ll find these objects are needed most when children are going to sleep, visiting new places, or when they are to be away from their parents.

Is this object a problem?

So, are they a problem? As long as the object does not inhibit the child’s development of social or language skills, there is no reason to be concerned, no matter how old your child is. In fact, 60% of toddlers use them.

My first recommendation

Unfortunately, getting rid of the object is usually more of a priority for the parents than the child.  I recommend a couple things. First, a parent’s concern should really be to keep the item clean and ignore how it looks for your child to have one, even if they are in preschool or kindergarten. Next, have a duplicate on hand in case one gets lost or needs to go out to the cleaners. That being said, if you still want to speed up the process here are a few suggestions.

Transitioning away from the transitional object

Don’t cut off your child from the object cold turkey.  Additionally, don’t try to take it away at times of stress, such as the arrival of a new baby or a move.  Wean your child gradually, perhaps limiting its use to car rides or the child’s room.

Usually by age 5 when your child’s friends stop using their transitional objects in public, your child will stop as well. Don’t worry if the object continues to play a role in your child’s life as they move through elementary school.  It may even come out in adolescence when your child needs a little cuddling during stressful times and doesn’t want to ask you for it.

Hopefully, tips like these will give you the added security you need and blanket any concerns you may have when it comes to knowing more about your child’s transitional objects.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.  

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