Should you be concerned about your child having a “security blanket”? Certainly not, they will grow out of the dependence in their own time; however, understanding how these security items contribute to preschoolers' lives will help adults nurture their emotional development.
Transitional objects are any objects which help children transcend from the familiar to the unknown or from dependence to self-sufficiency.
Children use transitional objects to relieve anxiety and to relax. Attachments to transitional objects – which are usually soft items, like an old diaper, doll, stuffed animal or blanket – happen around 8 – 12 months and peak in the second year.
This “security blanket” often provides comfort at a time when childhood fears (of the dark, of strangers, of dogs) start in earnest and can represent the parent and the sense of safety and comfort your child feels in your presence.
They might need their security blanket more when you are away when they are afraid while falling asleep or when they are in an unfamiliar place. So non-social attachment objects can and do play an important role in the lives of young children.
• Try to get a duplicate item as young children can become frantic when the security item is misplaced or washed.
• Understand that the security item gives the child comfort in a rapidly changing world in which they have little control. This item is often stroked, held near their mouth or nose as it has the mom’s smell and the child’s smell and reminds them of home.
• Know that somewhere between the age of two and five. Most children are ready to bid bye-bye to their “blankie”. However, there will be occasions when they cling to it during times of stress.
• Try to understand why your toddler requires a transitional object. This will enable the parent to divert the child’s attention to another positive experience, e.g. when your child is fussy, and you know it is due to ... (any reason) redirect the child towards another new and interesting activity rather than just hand the “blankie” to them.
• Try to address issues and realize that if stressful incidents are avoided, then the transitional object will not be needed as much.
• Encourage your toddler, as they strive for greater autonomy, to accept visual contact rather than direct physical contact.
• Set limits, if possible. Tell your toddler that their “blankie” can be carried around in the house but not to the playground. Or that it can go in the car, but not inside the shop etc. (Give reasons, e.g. “Let’s keep your “blankie” in the car/at home where it won’t get dirty or lost” etc.)
• Enlist your child’s help to find a special place to keep “blankie” safe while they play outside, goes to school etc.
• When weaning an older child from their transitional object, do so on a gradual scale, i.e. turn their attention towards an activity that is fun and interact with your child more.
• Do crank up the comfort. Giving your child lots of hugs and reassurance to his/her transitional object is not their only source of solace.
• Tease your child about their “blankie”.
• Lower your child’s self-esteem by telling them that only “babies” have a “blankie”.
WHEN IS EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT TO AN OBJECT ABNORMAL
• Duration – Has the attachment to the object persisted far beyond the age at which most children would have begun to respond differently? E.g. taking “blankie” to school etc.
• Intensity – Is the child so involved with the object that it is preventing them from functioning in a social way.
Each child as they grow will typically begin to lose their appeal for the 'object' without much adult intervention. Often transitional objects fade in importance because children find playmates, and the object becomes more of a hindrance than a help.