Is it OK if your child is in love with a 'lovey'?
The character Linus in the “Charlie Brown” comic strip famously took his blanket with him wherever he went. It sometimes made for funny moments, but there’s a serious reason why young children cling to a favorite stuffed animal or other object.
“It gives them a sense of security,” said Kenneth Colmer, MD, of Bass River Pediatric Associates in South Yarmouth. “If their parents aren’t around or the child is in an unfamiliar situation, they can hold onto it and it makes them feel safe and comfortable. It’s known and it’s familiar.”
Many children give their security object a name, like “lovey.”
Dr. Colmer has seen the situation close-up.
“I have three kids and my daughter carried a cloth diaper around with her, and one of the boys always carried his slipper with him and it would really make him feel good. The other boy had a little toy clown he would always carry around with him and sometimes have in his mouth.
“Whenever we went on a trip, we had to make sure we know where ‘shoe-y’ and ‘clowny’ were.”
And, like most children, his sons eventually stopped carrying the objects, without any parental intervention.
“Most kids by the age of 5 or 6, or by the time they get into kindergarten or first grade, they’re not likely to bring it out in public with them the way they would when they’re younger,” he said. “Maybe they use it at home or in their bedroom still, and then it tends to fade away.”
Kids Wean Themselves
By 5 or 6, children are spending lots of time with peers and they’ll notice if their friends do or don’t have a security object, Dr. Colmer said.
“They begin to feel like they’re more independent and they can get by without it.”
Kids who are 5 or 6 are likely to wean themselves from use of a security object, perhaps using it at only at home and then giving it up, he said.
Beyond that age, he said, if they’re still firmly attached to a “lovey,” they may be having a difficult time with separation anxiety or other issues and it might be worth talking to a pediatrician to consider counseling.
The guidelines for pacifiers, which provide physical comfort more than psychological comfort, are different, he said.
“In the first six months, there’s definitely a role for the pacifier, but after that it’s usually not necessary,” he said. “It gives the mother a break from breastfeeding and sometimes it’s helpful for getting a baby to sleep at night.
“I usually tell parents after six months to just get rid of the pacifier because they really don’t need it. Young babies have the urge to suck, but after six months the urge to suck is not there.”
Long-term use of a pacifier can damage a child’s teeth, he said.
“You can get rid of the pacifier and maybe replace it with a little stuffed animal if the child wants something to hold,” he said.