Why do kids sleep with teddy bears? In the last of my blogs on “Why Do Kids Sleep With Teddy Bears, Parts 1 and 2” I discussed the healthy ways teddy bears and other transitional objects help young children transition to independence. Today, we’ll have a look at how you can help keep those “relationships” healthy, so a child can let go of her teddy bear (or blanket… or pacifier…) in good time.
Healthy Transitional Objects
We had a look at “transitional objects” in my last couple of blogs on this subject… teddy bears and other comfort objects help very young children learn to feel comforted—they are familiar, and babies and young children associate them with safety… allowing a child to feel safe without direct physical connection to a parent.
But an older toddler can become overly connected to a particular object to the point of feeling severe separation anxiety, sadness, or trauma when separated—even just so teddy can go through the washing machine. Here’s how to keep it from happening… and help a child through if it does.
- Use more than one object. Use a range of stuffed animals, even several of the same “make and model” so that your little one gets comfortable with more than one comfort item. This can help a child learn to adapt to change while still feeling safe and secure—a powerful lesson.
- Change them over time. Replace a baby’s pacifier with a blanket when she grows to be a young toddler; replace the blanket with a teddy bear as your young toddler grows older. These strategies help a kid learn to identify ways to self-soothe among a range of options.
- Wean them gradually. Work with your child in small ways… replace that absolute favorite object with another toy once in awhile at bedtime, or tell them this is a night to practice going to bed without it.
- Talk it up. Some parents have had success telling a child “you’re too old for the teddy bear/blankie/pacifier” at a certain birthday, and removing it that night. Usually, for a well-adjusted child who’s not going through any other traumatic events, they’ll adjust within a night or two… faster than most parents think possible.
Most of these attachments and comfort behaviors are healthy, but sometimes they can be signals of problem behaviors. In my next and last blog on “Why Do Kids Sleep With Teddy Bears,” I’ll list some of the potential problems… what to do, and when to get help.