Security objects such as blankets and stuffed toys are part of the emotional support system of children
I have met plenty of parents who are embarrassed to talk about their children’s refusal to part with their comfort objects/loveys. This reminds me of Linus and his blanket. Linus from the “Peanuts” comic strip is infamous for carrying around his security blanket, wherever he went, while sucking his thumb. Charles Schulz’s insecure character often nibbled the corner of his blanket or curled up with it during difficult times. This was his security blanket.
We need to understand that security objects such as blankets and stuffed toys are part of the emotional support system of children in their early years. My parents took pride in telling me that I had a favorite blanket (dolai) that I loved, especially its corner that I hung on to before going to sleep. These are comfort objects. It is natural for children to have little things that provide a sense of security and comfort. Just the thought of comfort objects/loveys makes me smile. I am sure you want to know, ‘What is a lovey?’
A comfort object, transitional object, or security blanket, lovey is a term used for an item that provides psychological comfort to children, especially in unusual, unique situations, or at bedtime. For toddlers, lovey may be a blanket, a stuffed animal, or a favorite toy. Often these objects also have nicknames and help children make the emotional transition from a state of dependence to independence.
Thumb sucking is a normal and natural way for young children to comfort themselves.
We are all aware that little babies tend to use their fists, fingers and thumbs to sooth and satisfy themselves. When babies begin to realize they are separate from their mothers, and are individuals, their anxiety increases. To ease this anxiety many mothers introduce loveys as transitional items. The purpose is to bridge the gap of separation by having children latch on to something else that makes them feel secure.
The home feel
It is entirely possible that children will not use a blanket. They may rather prefer a soft toy or even something that has their mothers’ smell on it, like their shawl or khasto. Chances are they will make their choice between 8 and 12 months of age and stick with their choice for some time. I am sure you have seen children drag their loveys with them where ever they go, especially when they are separated from you. It reassures them, helps them get to sleep at night and comforts them when they are frightened or upset or when their feelings are hurt. Especially when they are in a strange place it helps them feel at home.
Sometimes, transitional objects become ‘sacred keepsakes’ which take us back to a time and place of great solace. Often these objects continue to have special place even in our adulthood in the form of photographs, wedding bands, mementos, music, and pieces of art and culture. They define both pleasant and nostalgic memories, but more importantly, a state of connection and presence in the world. It is natural for parents to think that having a comfort object is some kind of weakness.
Parents often worry that transitional objects promote thumb sucking. But thumb or finger sucking is a normal, natural way for young children to comfort themselves. They will gradually give up on the habit when they find other ways to cope with stress. Rest assured, having a lovey is not a sign of weakness or insecurity. Hence there is absolutely no reason to keep your child from using one. In fact, a transitional object can be so helpful that you might want to help them choose one and build it into their nighttime routine. Now the issue is choosing a lovey for your child.
Small and soft
Keeping safety in mind, look for something that is small and soft. Avoid things that could pose a choking hazard or could be used as a step for climbing out of the crib. Also, be careful of small items that could be pulled off such as a doll’s eyes or a nose, since babies are deceptively strong. Next, don’t worry that your child might get too attached; such attachments are not a sign of unhealthy insecurity. Rather they are often a sign of a strong bond between parents and children. Research shows that a child who seeks comfort with a lovey is often the one whose need for love and attention has been met by parents. Having a comfort object/lovey is a sign of a child’s healthy development.
Transitional objects/loveys are among the most powerful symbols in children’s lives because they help children come to terms with their independence. They are considered experimental steps to growing up. They also help children navigate new experiences and role-play stressful situations. For example, going to the doctor isn’t so scary if your children have their teddy bear to keep company and the doctor listens to the teddy bear’s heart first instead of your child’s.
Choice of a lovey depends on a child’s needs. I believe these objects play an important role in a child’s emotional development and help children deal with transitions: the transition from wakefulness to sleep and the transition from being with parents to being with a baby-sitter. Children’s transitional objects/loveys are usually something that reminds them of their parents.
Finally, make sure you choose a safe object as your child’s comfort object/lovey. Oh and be prepared for your child to lose it too. Hence have two so you avoid the tension when one is being washed or is lost. Don’t worry that your child is getting too attached to their loveys. Most children usually give them up when they are about four or five years. Whatever you do, don’t push your child to give it up. That kind of pressure will only make children more attached to their loveys. It’s best to wait until they are ready to give up their lovey on their own. In the meantime enjoy your child’s imitation of you with their loveys. Now that is not too difficult, right parents?
The author is an educationist and writer of several children’s books