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How Long Is Too Long to Let Your Child Have a Lovey?

Photograph by Twenty20

All three of my kids had something special they slept with when they were younger. My oldest had a sweet teddy bear he carried with him everywhere. Now, at the age of 14, he hates it when I bring up his beloved teddy, although I do find it in his bed occasionally. He clearly feels like he's too old for such things but obviously still needs his bear.

My daughter was gifted three hand-knit blankets when she was about a week old—she's 12 now and still sleeps with all of them. If she spends the night at her dad's house, they go with her. If we take a long car ride, even for the day, she has to bring at least one. I notice when she's sad, she carries it around the house or snuggles with it on the coach and it seems to help her feel better.

My youngest never really got attached to anything but he did suck his fingers at night until he was 10. Sometimes I wonder if there's a connection there. Maybe his fingers were a stand-in for the lovey he never really fell in love with.

A recent article in the Chicago Tribune reports, "Almost every newborn discovers an object to call his or her own and develops an attachment to it in as early as the first six months."

So, we know it's a very normal part of childhood development, but how long is too long for a child to hang onto that special blanket or stuffed animal? I'm not concerned my 12-year-old daughter likes to have her baby blanket wrapped around her when she's feeling sick or sad. And the fact she takes it to a friend's house is fine, too. I still have my baby blanket and I'm 42 years old and think (for the most part) I am a well-adjusted adult—but should I be worried?

If you're concerned your child is carrying around that blanket or special toy for too long, you don't need to worry.

These "transitional objects" seem to help make people (no matter their age) feel calm and give them a sense of home, especially when they're going through a hard time or big change

The article went on to interview women in their 20s who still had their loveys. Vivian C. Seltzer, a psychologist of human development, weighed in on the topic and said even as adults we need items that remind us of home as we still become overwhelmed with big lifestyle changes.

And clinical psychologist and New York professor Stanley Goldstein said a third of his students bring their transitional objects to college with them and says "it's nothing unusual." Goldstein adds," We still have fears, and whatever helps us face these fears, it’s OK. We feel the need to define everything because something is a little peculiar or strange, and that doesn’t mean it’s an illness nor needs treatment.”

So, if you're concerned your child is carrying around that blanket or special toy for too long, you don't need to worry. It's a natural, a normal part of childhood behavior and is helping them through transitions and everyday life.

The article concludes that as your child grows up, their special lovey will be used less because they won't need it as much. The real takeaway? Don't take away their special object too soon. Chances are, it's helping them more than we realize.

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