Do you know any children who have a toy, a stuffed animal, a nanny, a blanket or even a favorite pacifier, which they take everywhere? Sometimes none of these objects, but something that the little one does not give up at bedtime or when he feels alone.
They are the famous transition objects – or transitional objects – quite common in early childhood and important for the child’s emotional development . It can be any object the child gets attached to when he begins to understand that he and his mother * are not the same person.
But what is the transitional object?
Winnicott (English pediatrician and psychoanalyst) defined the transitional object as that used by the child to support the maternal absence. According to the author, in the first months of life, the baby is not aware that he and his mother are different people.
With all the care and attention she receives, the mother satisfies the child’s needs, so that he starts to need exactly what she offers him. Thus, the baby feels confident to know the world around him and to know himself, discovering his possibilities and limits.
Gradually, from the bond he establishes with the mother, the baby is able to feel whole when he becomes able to differentiate himself from her. However, when he realizes that the mother is not always present, the child tends to look for an object (which represents the mother) for the support and comfort he needs at these times.
This choice must be the child’s, because the object must have a meaning for him and not for the parents.
When used, it is something healthy that helps the child deal with anxiety and frustration. Usually the transitional objects accompany the little ones until around 5 years of age, but this can vary according to the emotional development of each one.
There is no need to rush this process, but the parents can gradually help the child to deal with his anxieties alone, without needing a real object to reassure himself. For this, it is important to always talk to her and offer a space where she can talk openly about her feelings.
That way, when the child feels ready, he / she will be able to face new situations in a safe and confident way.
* mother = maternal function: it is who performs this role, who is responsible for the care, affection and reception of the child. It may be the birth mother or a substitute.