Why You Shouldn't Worry When Your 'Big Kids' Won't Give Up Their Blankies & Lovies

michele zipp

As a mom, I will say my unofficial job duty is that of worrier. Sometimes I go to extremes, and other times I swear I am very laid-back. After reading an article on one woman's inability to get rid of her security pillow until middle school, I wondered if my son will ever lose his attachment to "blue blankie," and if his comfort object was a hindrance in any way. Will my second grader turn into a man going on a big job interview who needs to snuggle blue blankie for luck? 








See? Professional worrier.

My son Hunter first "met" blue blankie just days after his birth. It was a gift lovingly made by my mother's friend who gave it to me at my baby shower. She also knit one in pink for his twin sister. Blue blankie has been a constant in his crib or bed for nearly seven years. There are photos of him snuggled up with it while on my lap when he was just weeks old, even some where he's chewing on the end to soothe some teething pain.

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According to Hunter, now nearing 7 years old, blue blankie has special powers and comes alive when he is asleep to help keep him warm and cozy. And there are rules when it comes to blue. No one is allowed to touch blue blankie unless they are in their pajamas or else it will take all the "cozy" out. Blue blankie charges up during the day and is ready to snuggle with him at night to help him sleep. While his sister now uses hers as a blanket for her dolls, Hunter must sleep with blue blankie every night. I should perhaps thank blue blankie because Hunter usually sleeps very well and doesn't get up in the middle of the night and crawl into bed with me like his sister sometimes does.

We often put these time limits on our kids and think they should be doing "this" by a certain time or stop doing "that" by a certain age. My own mom likes to tell the story about how she was so worried I'd never be potty trained but the doctor told her that he could assure her I would be out of diapers by the time I walked down the aisle. He was right; I was way ahead of schedule even. So a 6-going-on-7-year-old with a magical blue blankie? It's fine, right? No big deal, sure.

I spoke to Rebecca Nidorf, LCSW-R, who has been a therapist for over 20 years, about the attachment my son has to blue blankie.

"In my work as a psychotherapist, I have come to appreciate the role of transitional objects for not only young children who begin attachments to transitional objects, such as a blanket or stuffed animal in infancy, but for older children and in some cases adults," Nidorf told me. "I have been asked by hundreds of parents 'When should we encourage letting go of their blankie?' My answer: 'Never!'"

Never is music to my ears. And blue blankie is no doubt happily recharging his "cozy" as well.

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Nidorf also shared the important role a transitional object plays in a child's life. "A transitional object acts as its name describes; it literally helps children move from one transition to the next," she explained. "It soothes and creates safety and comfort, and the best part is a person can access this all on their own just by reaching for their object."

But when will a child stop using that object?

When he no longer needs it, Nidorf says. Simple as that.

Nidorf says we should follow the lead of our children, and be careful not to project our own need for them to discard their objects. "When this happens, the child will hold on to it more tightly," she says. "Imagine the object as the parent dropping their child off for school the very first day -- the harder the parent tries to pry away, the tighter the child will cling."

Taking away a transitional object before a child is ready will result in similar behavior, she says: "Trust your child to know when it is time to leave it behind, and to take it out when they need it -- which may be on their drive to college!"

When talking to parents of babies, I often try to tell them not to get caught up in the timing of things or when milestones are supposed to happen because all children will do whatever it is in their own time. I need to remind myself of this as well -- as a mom of twins, I will say that isn't always easy. Kids like to take us to the brink of insanity before they magically decide to doze over eight hours or start eating kale. Blue blankie might be up for quite an adventure like going on sleepovers or earn the role of ring bearer at my son's wedding.

Having a blankie, woobie, pillow, or stuffie your little one cannot part with doesn't mean your child's growth will be stunted. In fact, quite the opposite. It's all about having our basic needs met, being able to feel secure in the world, and having the courage to do whatever it is you do each day. And for a kid, that's vital.

My son's blue blankie is part of his empowerment -- it reassures him when he wakes in the middle of the night and I'm not right by his side that all is okay and it helps him fall back asleep. 

Sixty percent of kids have them and even some adults, which got me thinking about my afternoon cup of coffee. It's not just about the caffeine, but something about the ritual of getting a cup, mixing in the sugar, feeling the warmth of the mug in my hands, taking in the magical powers and feeling (as my son describes) the cozy.

As I pour myself another cup, I'm not worried about blue blankie at all anymore. Though I do think he needs a wash.


Image via Michele Zipp

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