Being away from loved ones, in the care of others is a big deal. It is asking a lot of a wee person, and we absolutely must be someone they can rely on. Children will only learn and develop as they should if they feel safe. The child brings so much to the relationship, but this one is on us.
Being a trusted adult, makes us a secure base, a critical component in a child’s exploration. They will branch out from us and play, as long as they are secure in the knowledge they can return to us whenever needed.
They'll explore, and check back in with a look, or a cuddle and off they'll head again. This is their energy and bravery recharge. Sometimes this recharge comes from an object that bridges the gap between home and away.
A heart for Ted!
We cannot stress enough how important transitional objects are for the emotional
well-being of young children.
Whether a blanket, teddy, pacifier or other beloved object, it is supporting the child in being away from their home and their loved ones. It is like a piece of their heart they carry around to help them feel whole. It is not just comforting for the child, but for the parents too, to know their child has their security object.
A crutch at a time it's needed!
Some adults, even experienced teachers and carers worry about transitional objects.
They fear they are a ‘crutch’ for the child to lean on, which is exactly what they are - but in the very best of ways.
A broken ankle needs a crutch to help it along until it is strong enough o stand on its own. If the crutch is removed prematurely, the ankle will be shaky. It will take time to get strong again, longer in fact than it would have without the premature removal.
A transitional object helps the child along until they feel strong enough to stand without it, even if this takes a few years. If this object is removed, forcibly, and prematurely, the child will be shaky, take time to feel strong again - longer in fact than if they'd just been left to it.
Is it a help or is it a hindrance?
Some settings have a ‘no toy policy’, but teachers need to know the difference between a favourite toy and a transitional object.
One may just be the new ‘big thing’ the child really likes, but the other is a bridge between the child and home, making a difficult separation more manageable.
Put yourself in the child’s shoes for a moment. Have you moved around a lot as an adult, and have a particular item that has travelled the entire journey, making each new place ‘home’?
What may seem the crudest example, but is worth throwing out for quick consideration -
how ‘lost’ and insecure do you feel if you leave home without your adult security object - your cell phone?
Children need to learn through relationships and about relationships. They need trusted adults, a strong secure base to stand in for their absent loved ones. To be able to rely on us, they must feel safe.
The strongest relationships grow when the adult provides exactly the sort of care that children need, with the help of their best friend, Ted.