Can kids get too attached to ‘loveys’?
Linus had his trusty blanket, Calvin had Hobbes, and Trixie, her beloved Knuffle Bunny. You may have had your own “lovey” growing up, and perhaps it’s in your home still, on a shelf or stored in a closet.
The cultural phenomenon is almost universal, but what is it about stuffed animals and fuzzy blankets that draw us in?
Known as “transitional objects” in the world of psychology, these comfort items can help instill a sense of security and safety in children.
“Infants and toddlers go through a lot of change in their first years as they grow and develop, and will often find security and comfort in the familiar things around them,” says Dr. Adam Kost, a pediatric hospitalist on staff at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “The animal or blanket is something that children associate with happy times, so when they are facing anxiety or fear, having their ‘lovey’ nearby can help.”
While some people worry about children getting too attached to their comfort items, or not letting them go as they age, Dr. Kost says there is little reason to be concerned.
“The research that’s been done hasn’t shown reason to be alarmed,” he says. “In contrast, it’s shown positive benefits of attachment, like how children may feel less stressed during doctor visits if they can bring a stuffed animal or blanket along.”
Most children grow out of needing a comfort item as they age, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they get rid of them entirely. Some surveys have shown that as many as a third of adults still sleep with a teddy bear.
“That doesn’t really surprise me,” chuckles Dr. Kost. “Everyone needs a little extra comfort sometimes, even adults.”
Dr. Kost offers these tips for keeping your children and their loveys happy and safe:
- Let your child choose their comfort object. There may be something you hope they get attached to – a special gift from a grandparent, perhaps – but you can’t force it. If a child is going to declare a “lovey,” it will likely be something of their choosing.
- Keep it clean and safe. While part of a lovey’s charm can be its “well-loved” appearance, make sure you stay within the bounds of good hygiene and safety. Occasionally spot wash or clean the item and make sure any loose accessories are tightly attached and holes quickly mended.
- Consider buying a back-up. There are few things more stressful to a child than a misplaced lovey. If your child is particularly attached to something, consider buying a second one and cycling them out so both see equal wear. If you only have one, consider only taking it out of the house on “special occasions,” lessening the chances of frantic late night phone calls to family, friends and local businesses.
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