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The Lovey (Security Objects)

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BearlyYesterday, I asked my 4-year old, "Why do you love Bearly so much?" Joey looked at me grabbing up his bear and stated, "Cause he is my favorite and I love to sleep with him." He then went on to explain, "I love to scratch him on the face and go to sleep cause it makes me feel good."

Joey is not alone. About 60% of children in the U.S. have some kind of security or transitional object. It may be a treasured bear, blanket, scrap of material, or stuffed animal. Security objects come in many forms, but each is extremely important to its owner.

Children toward the end of the first year will sometimes become attached to such an object. Perhaps they are just learning to walk and need the security of being close to the familiar. Perhaps they are in a new environment, such as a day care setting and want a reminder of home and parents. Whatever the reason, these items provide young children with a sense of attachment and give them the courage to strike out on their own.

On one occasion, my husband and I purchased a second Bearly, knowing that original was showing signs of abuse. We were embarrassed to be seen in public with it! Joey had other feelings on the subject. Yes, the new Bearly was nice, but it was the original, the one and only that needed to be by his side during naps, bedtimes and in times of crisis. With his face nearly loved right off, his right arm tattered and chewed, and balding on top, Bearly could not be replaced.

At one point, Joey wouldn't even let me wash it. I had to convince him that Bearly loved getting "all clean." Eventually, he gave in, and now Bearly gets a weekly bath in the clothes washer and fluff in the dryer. Occasionally, he gets mended and restuffed as well.

I know of many parents experiencing the same trials and tribulations of security items. One little girl is down to a 4-inch by 4-inch square of fabric from her beloved blankie. She rubs her face with it in times of trouble and at bedtime. She is even willing to share it with mother when she isn't well.

There may come a time when a treasured item gets lost. Most parents panic at the thought of losing a security object. But the truth is that most children get over the loss within a few days. Some may replace the item with another, but others will simply give it up. It is often the parents that are more devastated and for a longer period than the child. One way to help your child to get past this devastating loss is not to continually mourn for your child. Let him be the judge of the mourning period.

So when will this all end? Most children become ready to give up Bearly or Blankie on their own. There is no set age. By the time elementary school starts, Bearly will be taking a back seat to all of Joey’s new friends and activities. One way to introduce the idea of letting go is by restricting (from early on) where and when the lovey gets to come along. Some parents insist that it stays home and is only used for naps or bedtime. Some will only allow it to accompany children to daycare. Letting go will allow the child to learn the difficult skill of self-comforting. Bearly will always hold a treasured place in Joey’s heart, and in mine as well. I will look upon his torn and tattered face with remembrance of Joey’s babyhood and the loving relationship he had with his Bearly.

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