Letting go of insecurities can be extremely hard for your child to do. Take note of these handy tips for helping your child to let go of insecurities.
Once a child becomes used to their dummy, it becomes an important means of security and comfort. Ideally, children should voluntarily give up their dummy when they feel ready (usually between 3 and 4 years of age), but as a parent you may face formidable opposition. Never fear there are various methods you can employ to help toddlers wean themselves off.
- You could start by restricting use of the dummy to bedtime. Then gradually suggest sole use of a favourite stuffed animal instead of the dummy. Talk to your child about the possibility of giving up the dummy.
- Take his/her feelings into consideration. If they seem upset at the prospect, postpone the discussion to a later stage. Encourage your child to let go of their dummies by him/herself. This normally happens naturally but you can nudge the process along. When they remove the dummy place it in a place they can’t access. After a while they’ll realise that it’s not worth the effort to try and set it.
- Handle your child with gentle firmness. Perhaps have a little burial ceremony in the garden to mark the dummy’s departure. Then if your child gets the urge to retrieve it, explain that the dummy is gone and distract them with other activities or means of comfort. Use a reward system, keep a chart of days that your child doesn’t use his dummy and buy them a reward at the end of the week. Toddlers thrive on praise and encouragement and will be happy to receive any recognition.
- If your child is still unwilling to relinquish their dummy, consult your doctor, nurse or childcare professional for help. Often the child will want a dummy if he/ she is bored or not getting enough interaction.
Security Blankets and Teddy Bears
Attachment to a special blanket or teddy bear is common in many children. Blanket and teddy bear attachments should begin to naturally decrease by around the age of five and above. For toddlers and young children, blankets and teddy bears are certainly beneficial as they have a calming effect and provide comfort. The rate of letting go of blankets will depend on the child’s emotional development. Ongoing attachments are not really a concern as long as they are limited to the home. Blankets can also have long-lasting sentimental value. Whilst peer pressure and socially acceptable behaviours will probably eventually discourage blanket use outside the home, here are some tips to speed up the process:
A creative idea is to get your child a puppy and then encourage giving the blanket over to their new furry friend who needs to keep warm. However, do not adopt this method when it comes to the birth of a new sibling, children already feel jealous enough in such a situation. Reward children when they leave the blanket/teddy bear alone for a certain period of time. Reward works much better than punishment. See “Dummies” section above.
When upset, the child may crave the blanket/teddy bear again and while this can be indulged, slowly give them other means of comfort through engaging with them and discussing things. They can also be distracted with other activities and they will eventually forget about their blankets and teddy bears.
Dummy usage is a behaviour that must eventually be discouraged for obvious reasons. However, as long as teddy bear and blanket use are restricted to the home and do not appear to be detrimental to development they are not a cause for major concern, even in older children. Ultimately, children should grow out of these attachment impulses on their own, with a little gentle but firm encouragement from mom and dad.