Between the ages of six to twelve months, children tend to get emotionally attached to a favorite item.
What kind of an item is it?
It’s usually a soft item that is in the reach of the child. It’s often something that is associated with the crib – a cloth that we put under our child’s head, a sheet, a blanket, a handkerchief or a stuffed animal. However, it’s possible that it’s a more unusual item, such as an onesie, a sleeping bag, a bottle, etc. It’s also possible that a child associates some kind of a movement with this item – caressing the sheet, rubbing his nose… Basically, it’s not important what the item is – the child will pick it himself and demand it. No matter how easy it is to clean, no matter how pretty or ugly, it will always end up dirty, torn, indispensable and endlessly loved.
Psychologists call it a transitional object.
Are there good and bad transitional objects?
Not for a child. He always chooses wisely. For a mother though, an object is good if it exists in several copies, if it’s not too big and if it can be washed in the washing machine.
Why does a child choose a certain item over the others?
Children’s preferences have its odd rules. Out of all those toys that occupy his crib, he favors one more than the others. Parents usually don’t know about it and find out when a child refuses to go anywhere without this object. What we do know is that the important factors that play part in the selection of this item are touch and smell.
Why is the transitional object appearing now?
It’s associated with separation anxiety that is normal at this age. The object helps with this anxiety. A child starts looking for his item at around his sixth to twelfth month and his attachment could last up until he’s three to six years old.
Do all children have a transitional object?
Probably not. Children that suck their finger or a pacifier tend not to have a transition item. However, if we search deeper we can find something less noticeable, like a gesture that can be their transitional object. We don’t know why some children (a very small number) don’t have a transitional object. All we know is that no one ever discovered any noticeable differences in psychological and overall development between these children and those that care for their old torn teddy bear for years.
What does a transitional object mean to a child?
The item substitutes for mom who sometimes leaves her child. The object becomes a substitute mom that gives the child security, but also a mom that doesn’t stop him from expressing all his feelings and doesn’t punish him for them. A mom that the child – although small – can control. A growing child finds security in the transitional object; the kind of security he experience as a baby in his mothers arms. Even though a child grows and become more independent, his development is not without dear and sadness.
The transitional object provides a child with strength and comfort. It helps him recover from tiredness and sadness. A child takes it everywhere, because it gives him security in situations that he fears (like visiting the doctor).
The favorite item that a child holds close to him at night when in bed helps him deal with night anxieties. If he’s alone in a room and wakes up seeing phantoms around his bed, he buries his face into this well known scent.
Can we take the object away?
Experts don’t recommend it, because the attachment is too strong. Parents shouldn’t interfere in the relationship since their child needs it. This phase plays an important role in his development. We shouldn’t wash the object without our child’s approval; the best thing is to buy the same item again and give it to him. Even if your child treats the item poorly, if he tears it or beats it, we shouldn’t interfere. Some kids aren’t so loyal, but others will keep it for years. Parents can only wait until their child detaches himself from the item. Until then, parents should make sure that item doesn’t get lost or forgotten – this would surely create drama and your child will have trouble falling asleep.