A Child’s Security Blanket

Remember that cute little bear that your then single brother in law picked up for your daughter on the day she was born. Little did you know that a decade later that same little bear would be missing an ear, has had to have her tail sewn back on four times, once spent a menacing week hidden among the stuffed animals at K-Mart before being found, has been blatantly exposed to every germ and illness that ever existed and is definitely a one of kind, cannot be replaced (EVER) family heirloom with the undying ability to cause a major disruption at the sheer thought of being put up in the attic. Yes, there are millions of parents (and kids) who depend on their child’s security bear, blanket, pacifier, silky or whatever it is in order to get them through this funny little thing called life.

So what is this ‘thing’’ really about? And how do you ensure your child won’t be sleeping with it on their wedding day? And more importantly, should you and if so, how’.do you take it away.

A child’s security blanket or other object normally begins to take shape around the one year mark or later. This is about the same time that children begin to realize that their object of security (most often mom) is a separate entity from themselves. Psychoanalysts believe that children begin attaching themselves to objects as the first attempt at forming relationships with things besides from mom. And most often, this involves an object that can give them comfort. However, a child’s security blanket or bear is also a conversation about independence that your child has long before they are able to talk about their feelings. By defining an object to derive security from, children are beginning to learn to take care of themselves and have some control over their lives and environment. Obviously, this seems like pretty big language for just a baby however the urges to feel secure and safe, and to develop as individuals are innate in nature.

While the security blanket may be a disgusting dishrag looking item to you, for a young child it is a very deeply ingrained item from which they are able to draw upon their needs to reduce anxiety in their life. So, what does a baby or toddler have to feel anxious about? This is different for every child. Most utilize their security items at times of tiredness or sleep. Others will use it when they are separated from their family or familiar territory. Regardless, it simply makes your child feel good. Consider it almost as satisfying as a hug from mom. Interestingly enough, children who stay home with their moms and sleep with their moms until late in toddler hood, have less of a tendency to defer their need for security onto a security item. This is not a basis FOR or AGAINST co-sleeping, just a means of observation.

At some point, parents always feel like they must take the security item away from their child. In instances, where the child’s security item is something like a pacifier or bottle the need to take it away is a medical one. However, in other cases parents often just feel that their child needs to grow up and learn to live without the item. Many experts feel contrary. In fact, they feel that snatching up the item and forcing a child or even coercing them to give it up in order to be a ‘big kid’’ actually reduces their independence. If you think long term, even a 13 year old who still has her bear is not likely to bring it to school or a slumber party. If it sits on her bed and just happens to get tucked under the blanket at night, is there really any harm in that? Especially if it makes her happy? In other words, your child’s security attachment item isn’t hurting anyone and even if they do bring it on their honeymoon, chances are they won’t be reduced as human because of it.

For some parents it isn’t the disgusting state of the object that makes them want to take it away, but the fact that the child’s security item causes so much grief. You would never believe how much turmoil a blanket, bear or pacifier can cause until you lose it, even momentarily. In fact, the object becomes something that mom and dad depend on to, for sanity and peace in the home. For this reason, it is best that if your child decides to attach to something, make sure it is something replaceable. If you notice an attachment developing, you might want to go out to the store and buy one or two more that you can keep on hand just in case the inevitable happens. And it will. One day the blanket will be left on a playground, in a classroom, inside a grocery cart or lost in the mess of a child’s room. This is upsetting for everyone involved.

Obviously, there are times when the child’s security blanket can cause quite a stir. When your child starts school, they will not likely allow your child to bring their item with them. Rather than try to wean completely, help your child adjust to the new environment without their security item. Try to avoid telling them that they will be made fun of, or that blankets and bears are for babies. For one thing, your child is still a baby. Secondly, you have to realize that your child’s attachment was designed by them to soothe them in times of stress. Starting school, attending daycare and other transitional moments are exactly that. Instead, promise to bring it with you when you pick your child up etc.

You will notice that as time goes on, your child will lessen their attachment to their security blanket. When left alone, it happens naturally and in stages. As your child becomes more socialized, they will be able to pick up on clues themselves about how well accepted their blankie is in the face of friends. Rather than make your child’s security item a source of contention, try as much as possible, to allow your child to stay in control of it. After all, it is theirs. Most often in parenting, what mom and dad feel are tremendous issues are really nothing more than stages of development. Eventually, they all pass.



4 Responses

  1. I have an 11 year old girl that can’t sleep without her blankey and its causing a problem. We are going on camping trip and I don’t want the blanket to get ruined by fire smoke, her siblings, etc. I need help to wean her away from it.

  2. I don’t like it. At all. Everyone said it was ok but when my son took it on the slide and tripped over it, that was the last straw. Luckily caught him in time. Learning, Climbing, Running, Touching, Interacting needs to be unobstructed. Long blankies are unsafe and distracting to a child’s motor skill development. Period.

  3. Thank you for this article. My 10-year-old great-nephew has a stuffed duck that he’s had since birth and he still takes it with him when he goes to his Dad’s or most family events. His life has been one of turmoil with an overbearing often verbally and emotionally abusive father. Then in 2020 both of his grandmothers died within a 6 week period. His mom finally left his dad the end of 2020 and they’ve since divorced. The younger boys adapted well to it but his father often fills his mind with blame against his mom and even threats to take him from her. It’s no wonder the kid needs that old worn out duck. He’s extremely introspective and rarely talks about his feelings. Who knows? Maybe he tells the duck things he won’t tell us. I was concerned about a 10 year old with a security duck. But now I understand it better. One day he will feel secure and won’t need it anymore. But for now we’ll repair it and wash it and not ridicule him for it. Thanks again for you wisdom and words.

  4. My great nephew still has his baby blanket and sucks his thumb at age 6 His parents have been successful in first keeping it in the house and are working on keeping it only in his room. When he does something wrong they take it away for a while. One day as his mom was taking it, it ripped. He became furious and screamed at her to get away from him. I really thought at one point he was going to hit her. In my view, if the blanket were purposely lost one day when they were in another state on vacation, lets say, he may cry for a day or two, but this unnatural level of attachment would be over.

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