Your child’s favorite stuffed animal or blanket is lost or forgotten at home, and the panic starts to seep in. What do you do?
Replace it with something else? Stay with your child until they fall asleep? Run out to the store to find an exact duplicate? Handling this kind of situation, especially when the stuffy is so loved, can leave you feeling a little lost yourself ❤️
Loveys—those precious comfort objects your child carries around everywhere and sleeps with every night—can be an extremely important part of childhood. In child development language, these kinds of toys, stuffies, and blankets are called “transitional objects.” The attachment is often formed between the ages of 4 and 12 months, and dependence on them usually peaks in the second year of life and then wanes, though the attachment can last for years.
The word “transitional” is used because loveys provide comfort during times of change and transition: new environments, scary moments, disruptions to routines, and especially minor daily transitions like starting the daily bedtime routine.
Between 7 and 12 months, babies go through a separation process: the realization that they are a distinct and separate person from their mother is an enormous cognitive milestone for a baby. It can lead to separation anxiety, crying, unpredictable moods, and a closer bond with a lovey.
What to do if your child’s lovey is lost
This attachment comes with its challenges, of course. Perhaps you’re away from home, routines are off, it’s bedtime… and your child’s lovey is nowhere to be found. Sometimes it’s in the laundry, or simply lost. Many children form deep, meaningful, emotional bonds with stuffed animals and blankets (sometimes even with seemingly random toys or other items), and the experience of losing or misplacing one can feel unsettling and upsetting.
Having a duplicate as a backup can be worthwhile, but don’t feel like you absolutely need one. For one thing, even young babies are sometimes savvy enough to tell the difference between the original and a replacement. For another, it’s important to be honest with children, especially during times of loss. Telling them “we don’t know where your blanket is, but we will keep looking” and offering an alternative may not soothe a crying child in the moment, but it shows that you care and that their loss is important to you, too.
As hard as losing a lovey can be, it’s an early lesson in dealing with loss and sadness; explain that you understand why they’re so sad, and validate their feelings. Try to provide something else that may take its place—at least temporarily: a song, another stuffed animal, or a long hug. In the end, it’s possible that nothing will truly replace the lost item, and sitting with them through their sadness is the only—and best—solution ❤️
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