They come in all shapes and sizes, in all textures and colors, some named simply by the word they are and others by something unrecognizable, it’s the child’s lovey. The lovey gives a child comfort and security; it helps with transitions, parental absence, and difficult emotions. While most articles focus on a child’s relationship to their lovey, the information below shares insights gathered in the couples and individual counseling I provide in my Los Angeles psychotherapy practice.
1. The lovey comforts the child and the parent. When a child is angry they often reject their parent’s attempts at comfort (especially if the anger is a result of a parents set limit). This rejection can be uncomfortable for the parent. Being able to hand the child their lovey allows the parent to soothe the child as well as some of their own feelings.
2. Looking, looking, looking. The parent frequently finds themselves searching for their child’s lovey. Children don’t keep track of things and lovies are no exception. Parents will find themselves searching for their child’s lovey several times a day….or an hour! This experience can be frustrating, especially because the situation itself is typically already stressful since the child needs their lovey for some reason. Take a deep breath to help you stay calm and remember you are not alone. Parents all over are also looking for that important object.
3. Use “looking” to foster independence. As soon as your child is old enough to understand language have them engage in the lovey search. Children need to learn independence and participating in the search will facilitate this process. It will also be rewarding when they find their lovey at the end of the search. However, remember that in high emotional situations a child won’t have as much patience as other times. Choose the moments of a collaborative search wisely. In situations where their lovey is in plain sight, don’t rush to get it for your child. Encourage them to get it. Jumping at the first whine is not going to help your child become independent and also doesn’t help you manage your energy.
4. Use the lovey to take a meditative moment. Stopping for a moment and holding your child’s lovey is a great step towards mindfully parenting. Feel the lovey’s texture, smell the lovey, notice its wear; doing this creates an experience of connecting to your child and their relationship to this precious object. This moment is an opportunity for you to reflect on the feelings you have about your relationship with your child. It’s a chance to stop and soak up the present moment.
5. Losing the lovey could be rough, but worrying about it won’t help. When parents are introducing a lovey I recommend they buy two or three at the same time. Throw all lovelies into the mix at once so they all get the same amount of wear and tear. This will help limit anxieties a parent has about losing the lovey. Of course in situations where the child chooses their lovey on their own it’s not always possible to introduce a few more without the child rejecting the newcomers. In those situations remember that while losing the lovey will be tough for both you and your child, it’s an opportunity to be there for your child through a loss. For them to work their feelings and come out on the other side trusting that loss doesn’t need to be detrimental.
6. Practice letting go. I hear many parents express concern over how much their child is attached to their lovey. Understand that as a parent there are some things you can control and some things you can’t. While it can be scared to see a child obsessing over an object it’s important to remember that it won’t be forever. Children build the relationship with their lovey that they need. Feel lucky that your child feels safe enough to express their need for their lovey so clearly.
7. Saying goodbye is harder for the parent than the child. Finally, when a child’s relationship to their lovey dims it is often times harder for the parent than the child. The emotional departure to a lovely marks a significant step in development. It is a concrete sign that the child is growing and separating further from their parent. Allow yourself emotional room to work through this painful process. It is important that you adjust to your child’s new needs, be conscious to not get left behind.