Almost every child, at some point, becomes deeply attached to a comfort item of some sort. This can be practically anything, although blankets and soft toys are most common. While this can help self-soothing, many parents worry about their children’s ability to function in normal society once they go to school. Here are some tips to help you deal with comfort items in a way that will encourage normal emotional growth.
One thing to remember is that it is a normal step in child development to have a comfort item, even if this carries on for extended periods of time. Many people retain ownership of their childhood comfort items into adulthood, and some even continue to use them as such; they become markers of the fact that everything is okay and can continue to help a grown-up self-soothe in times of strife and stress.
Learning to self-soothe is a hugely important part of development for babies and children. Obviously this does not mean they should receive no comfort from you; it merely means they learn to cope with the world for short periods, and in normal circumstances, on their own. A good example of self-soothing would be a baby who wakes up in the middle of the night with his nappy still clean and without being hungry, hot or cold, and who puts
himself back to sleep a few minutes later; if he went on crying for much longer you would go in and check on him.
Comfort items can help here, as they allow your child to not feel alone despite being away from his or her parents. Having familiar surroundings helps children feel at ease, and as such a comfort item can be invaluable in terms of feeling they can sleep in other locations such as a relative’s house, or to feel confident in day care or nursery.
That said, when your child gets a bit older you will have to ensure that they can adhere to the rules of conduct in primary school, most of which do not allow toys to be brought from home at all. But simply removing the comfort item from your child’s life can really destabilise their comfort and confidence, so you will need to take it slowly.
Initially, begin by setting boundaries as to when the comfort item can come. Start small; no comfort items at the table, for example. Work gradually and slowly towards only having the comfort item at bedtime and naptime, so that the comfort item becomes associated with sleeping and does not intrude on daily life any longer.
By slowly and gently removing the comfort item from everyday interactions, you can help your child prepare for a life where the comfort item remains in bed and does not spend every waking moment coming along. As such, you won’t ruin the confidence the comfort item has helped your child to build up, and will be able to help him or her establish healthy relationships and a happy life. Enjoy!