What's your child's transitional object?
I used to have a monkey.
I couldn't get to sleep without him.
Eventually he lost both his eyes. And his fur was damaged by an orange-juice spill and had to be replaced. But I loved him anyway.
My own children have a dog, a lamb and a bear.
These weren't animals stolen from a zoo, they were transitional objects, soft toys that provide children with the sense of security they need to navigate uncomfortable situations. Many young children carry one around with them wherever they go.
I needed that monkey to help me get to sleep.
What is a Transitional Object?
In child psychology, a transitional object is something that stands in for the mother-child bond, a source of comfort at times of stress.
Infants see themselves and their mothers (or primary caregivers) as one indivisible entity. As they grow they face the painful realisation that they are separate. And so begins the path to independence, the 'transition'. Transitional objects help children to negotiate this process successfully.
Can anything be a transitional object?
Yes, although they are often stuffed animals, security blankets or dolls there are no rules. Anything familiar that offers a reminder of the safety of being with the primary caregiver will work. If it's soft and huggable and can take on the child's smell, all the better. To be effective, it must evoke strong positive emotions in the child when they look at or hold it.
In short, a comfort object is anything that enables a young child to continue an imagined bond with her mother as the periods of separation increase.
Transitional objects at bedtime.
Studies have shown that children who cuddle up to a soft toy when going to bed sleep more easily than those who do not. Their anxiety was reduced.
Comfort objects are not forever
Infants typically choose their transitional object sometime during their first year, the beginning of a friendship that can last until preschool and beyond.
However, most children reach a point where the object is no longer needed. They go to sleep easily; they separate happily.
But comfort objects can still be helpful. The first day of nursery, for example, when it is soothing to bring with you a reminder of home. Or a first sleepover at Granny's, when your teddy bear can give you that goodnight hug that Mummy isn't there to give.
Even adults need them occasionally. Weighted blankets and worry beads can be soothing in times of stress.
Newborns don't have the strength or co-ordination to interact with the soft toys that they find in their crib. But these classic transitional objects are true toy-box essentials.
Offer a few, of various shapes and sizes. They can sit, looking on benignly, until your child is ready to make her choice.
Which one will she choose?