A few of my favorite things

Parents have recently appeared less secure about their child still holding on to a favorite blanket or stuffed animal past the toddler years. Let me cover up your concerns with some information on this topic. Having a security object like a blanket or stuffed animal is a normal and healthy phase of development that provides a child with emotional comfort as a child makes the transition from complete dependence to independence thus the name transitional objects. In fact, it is actually a good idea for parents to create a transitional object for their child when he or she is between 6 to 12 months of age. That transitional object can be associated with the comfort you provide as a parent and is helpful during bedtime, visiting new places, or when your child is away from you. As long as the object does not inhibit the childs development of social or language skills, there is no reason to be concerned, no matter how old your child is in fact 60 percent of older toddlers and preschoolers use them. Unfortunately, getting rid of the object is usually more a priority for the parents than for the child. A parents concerns should really be to keep the item clean, to ignore how it looks and to have a duplicate on hand in case one gets lost or needs to go to the drycleaner. But if you want to speed up the process of helping your child let go of the transitional object, here are a few suggestions: Do not cut the child from the object cold turkey. And dont try to take it away during times of stress, such as the arrival of a new baby, or a family move. Wean the child gradually, perhaps limiting its use to car rides or the childs room. If a blanket is the object, some parents suggest cutting off pieces of it on a weekly basis until it is small enough to still give your child comfort without being an eyesore to others, although other parents are not fond of this particular approach. Usually by age 5, when your childs friends stop using their transitional objects in public, your child will stop as well, but dont worry if the object continues to play a role in your childs life as he or she moves through elementary school. It may even be useful in adolescence, when your child needs a little cuddling during stressful times but doesnt want to ask you for it. Hopefully, tips like this will give you the added security you need and blanket any concerns you may have when it comes to knowing more about your childs transitional objects. Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Childrens Hospital at Fletcher Allen and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch First with Kids weekly on WOKO 98.9 FM and WCAX-TV Channel 3. Visit the First with Kids archives at www.vermontchildrens.org.

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