Letting Go of A Security Symbol
Why do some children have security symbols and some don't?
Actually, all children have some type of security symbol at some point in their development. It could be a blanket or a pacifier, or it could be a story or a ritual. It's quite natural to their development to identify something in their lives that is constant, non-threatening and always comforting. These symbols are especially important as security when the child goes into unfamiliar location like a new child care situation. It allows them to take some of their own world to the new place, so they don't feel completely alone.
How do you tell if it's an unhealthy habit?
In the case of a pacifier, who decides when to use it – the baby or the parent? If parents "plug up" the baby all the time, it's probably overused. They should be given only after other methods of satisfying the baby have been tried.
If the child is miserable all day without his blanket while he is in first or second grade, his problem could be deeper than even the blanket can fix. Watch for behavior that is inappropriate or excessive for that age group. Ask an expert for advice.
How old should they be when they give them up?
It depends on the child and his circumstances. Some will be fiercely independent, and will be proud to give it up at age four or five. Others may need a warm, fuzzy object until they are well into grade school; although they may hide it from most people. Those kids may need to go to kindergarten with a little piece of it in their pocket. Physicians say pacifiers should be given up by age two, because of the developing dental structure. But many toddlers want to use them until they are three or four years old. Redirect the child to a blanket or stuffed animal if he still needs something.
How do you begin to take the security blanket away?
It's better to let the child decide when to give up the object. Parents should respect how much that blanket means, and treat the child as the person in charge of it. The child will want to give it up when he becomes more conscious of his image with peers, so you won't have to force him to do it. But do talk about it—tell your child that as she gets older, she will want to give it up. Discuss when it's more appropriate to leave it in the car or at home. Talk about the techniques she might try when she's ready to give it up. Acknowledge that it might be difficult, but you are confident she will succeed. And she will -- with your gentle encouragement.
For more information on security symbols, call 553-3000 or toll-free (877) 553-3001 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Reprinted with the permission of the Heartland Family Service. © 2008 Heartland Family Service
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