We all remember Linus from the Peanuts – confident, caring, smart, and still carrying a blanket around everywhere. While Linus is endearing, we all wonder if letting children indefinitely carry blankies aka security blankets or loveys will harm their development.
Will they face judgment from peers? Will they struggle to make friends? Will they lack the independence of other children?
These are daunting questions. The great news is that these fears and questions are unfounded, and science shows that these objects are tools that children naturally gravitate toward.
Security Blankets and Loveys According to Science
Research shows that a child’s security blanket or beloved teddy is actually a good thing. Turns out, blankies and loveys are a tool to boost a child’s confidence level, self-value, and they are even empowering.
Why? Blankets and loveys are a sense of security for children — a way to help them leave their parent or caregiver for the day, to work through the tears of an emotional moment, and to handle those tough transitions that they need extra support with. With that blanket or lovey in tow, they are “less shy and more focused than children who don’t use these things.”
While added focus and being less shy are great benefits in and of themselves, there is even more good news about the advantage of letting children have blankies and loveys. Research also tells us that “their lovey objects are like the first training wheels for telling themselves ‘you’re all right’. With a built-in sense of security, children feel safe enough to take small risks, explore and grow.”
Training wheels provided a safety net which increases confidence and then are shed when no longer needed.
By taking small risks, children will feel free and unafraid to transition to taking larger risks as they grow and change.
Security Blankets as Transitional Objects
The debate about the value of security blankets and other lovey objects has been taking place since 1951, the same year in which the term transitional object was first used by D.W. Winnicott.
Winnicott defines the term transitional object as “a designation for any material to which an infant attributes a special value and by means of which the child is able to make the necessary shift from the earliest oral relationship with mother to genuine object-relationships.”
In simpler terms, this means that security objects:
- Empower children
- Help children make connections outside of their parents
- Help navigate separation for a child
- Indicate how children will create human friendships
According to Psychology Today, security objects are “rooted in sensorial elements that lessen the stress of separation, while they soothe and comfort the child.” Each aspect of the item — from how it smells, to feeling the worn spots, to the faded color — is part of the unique relationship between the security object and the child. Not only does the security blanket or lovey act as a comfort, but it has become a physical keepsake of memories and nostalgia.
With all these positives coming from security blankets and loveys, it is difficult to know when to take your child’s lovey away or even if you should take this away. As adults, we can feel apologetic or worried about how our child’s lovey will be received by others. Our own insecurities may lead us to take away our child’s beloved object.
However, research has shown that if the transitional object is removed or denied access to, it can actually create more anxiety and trauma. It is better to support the child by using the security blanket or lovey at key times.
Use reassuring statements to let the child know that it will be waiting for them.
Put your blanket in your cubby, and it will be waiting for you at nap time.
At home you can pick up the special object when it is not being used and place it somewhere the child can easily have access to it when they are needing extra emotional support.
Your blanket is waiting for you on your bed.
While it can be uncomfortable for us as adults, children need the freedom to discard their object when they are ready.
Bottom line, blankies, loveys, or any other transitional object are a positive tool for children. Security blankets, loveys, and similar items:
- Foster independence and security
- Ease anxiety in new situations
- Help children as they transition to different life stages
- Create self-worth and awareness
- Invite emotional wellbeing
The truth is that even adults find benefits from security objects.
I still have my own lovey tucked away at the bottom of my dresser. He smells like my childhood. He reminds me of innocence, safety, and security.
Even our friend Linus always had great friends and was a respected leader among his peer group. So, no need to worry.
Children benefit greatly from their blankies and loveys and will let them go when they are ready.