A security blanket is a comfort object for a child. It provides a sort of psychological comfort. Most kids go through a phase where they do not go anywhere without their security blanket or object. These comfort objects play a very important role in the intellectual and emotional development of a child. Nearly seventy percent of children have some form of comfort object or self-soothing techniques like rocking or sucking their thumb. Many children use the blanket as a comfort object because it’s been with them since birth and it’s familiar to them. Other comfort objects are pacifiers, soft toys, dolls, and so on. The texture and smell of the blanket or toy reassures the child.
Why Do Children Need a Security Blanket?
These objects provide support to the child, enabling a smoother transition to the separation with parents. At some point, children are able to view themselves as separate and different from their parents. However, they may not always be comfortable with this concept. Their comfort object gives them the reassurance and familiarity, which says that all is well. It helps the children control the comfort required when parents are not around and fills the absent spaces. These comfort objects also help when the kids are nervous or anxious, helping them acclimate to unfamiliar surroundings. When the parents display anger or deny the children, they may turn to their security object for comfort.
Not a Sign of Weakness
These comfort objects are not a sign of weakness. They help the baby learn to cope with being away from the parents. It also lets the child control when he or she wants to be comforted. The security blanket can be seen as a substitute parent. Let the child choose his or her own object and provide the same every time the child needs reassurance. It is best to have more than one piece of the comfort object in case one gets misplaced or damaged, it can be substituted easily.
How Should Parents Act?
Not all children turn towards comfort objects. The presence or absence of comfort objects does not indicate anything about the child’s personality. Each child has his or her own way of dealing and coping with things. Do not force your child to give up the comfort object before he or she is completely ready. Parents need not get too concerned if the child gets attached to the security blanket. Like other phases, it will pass. The child will eventually leave the object. Do not hide the object or use it as punishment because it sends the wrong message to the child.
How to Control the Craving
Having a comfort object is a sign that the child is learning to cope with things and hence, it should be restricted. You can set some ground rules if you feel that the child is over-obsessed with the object. You can tell the child that the toy or blanket can be taken when going to a new place overnight but not while going to a store or friend’s place. Let the child use it only when sleeping at night and not for daytime naps.
How to Phase Out the Security Blanket
You may want to phase out the security blanket or object before the child starts preschool because some schools do not allow comfort objects. Others will make an exception, but only for the first couple of days. Plan ahead. Start the process at least 3-4 months in advance so that the child does not develop an aversion to school. Provide a reason for the child to leave the comfort object behind. It helps the child understand and deal with it. Let your child take the initiative in how to leave his/her toy or blanket behind rather than forcing the issue. Start off little by little and gradually increase the time away. Maybe the child can keep it in their bag initially and not take it out. When he or she realizes that it’s not too bad, it can be left at home. Encourage the child with kind words and incentives.
Substitute for Security Blanket
If you give the child a substitute like a photo or a smaller object, it can help make the transition easier. It is important not to punish or embarrass the child as it can lead to the child obsessing more and making the process of transition tougher. Even after the child leaves the security blanket, there can be times where the child will turn to it so it’s important to keep it a little longer.
For more information on security blankets, check out these links.