Maybe you had a blankie or were attached to a teddy bear. Heck, maybe you're still attached to that bear. You always assumed your child would adopt a comfort object or favorite toy. But there is no one item she "needs" to have with her at all times. Or so it seems.
What is a lovey?
You may not even realize your child has a lovey. That satin pillowcase she dragged out of the laundry basket and drapes over her shoulders? Lovey. "Loveys serve as transitional objects for children," explains Dr. Tracey Marks, a psychiatrist/psychotherapist and author of Master Your Sleep.
"A lovey helps the child feel safe and secure."
Stuffed toys, pacifiers and even a thumb can serve as a transitional object as the child shifts from complete dependence from you to independence. Take it as a compliment if your toddler insists on taking the same tattered blanket to sleep every night -- that's a proxy for you they're snuggling.
"A lovey helps the child feel safe and secure in this world of overstimulation," says Marks. "They are forever learning and exploring and that can be overwhelming. The lovey is a constant and a known entity that can help them feel grounded."
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When your child doesn't have a lovey
Should you be concerned if your toddler never gets attached to a lovey? Marks believes loveys should be supported, but that's different from encouraging them. "Using a transitional object is a normal developmental process and should not be discouraged," she says.
But if your child is happy to go about her business without the company of a favorite toy or transitional object, that's fine too -- the use or absence of a lovey doesn't necessarily indicate anything about your child's personality.
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You can't force a lovey on a child
If your child resists going to sleep on her own or demands your attention when she wakes through the night, your pediatrician may suggest putting a few toys in your child's crib to encourage her attachment to one of them. “Your child may take to it. But if he doesn't, and he likes holding on to mommy's pink scarf, don't force a switcheroo simply because the lovey you chose seems more acceptable," says Marks.
This is an important early lesson of parenting -- your child will like what she likes, and there isn't much you can do to influence her preferences. And you really shouldn't try.
"You don't want to pick a transitional object for your child," explains Marks. "This is what they gravitate to, to help soothe themselves and establish security. So if your child doesn't take to the cute lovey grandma bought him, don't worry about it. Let him find his own source of comfort."
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