Comfort Objects

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A comfort object is a toy or blanket that takes on emotional importance to a child. A physical link to a child's emotional and psychological world, often bearing the stains and scars of tears and play. While I did not have a comfort object as a child, my three children have each had one. Like many parents, I've hunted for it at bedtime, sent it along when leaving a child in another person's care, and carefully packed it on trips. It is a conduit for meeting their emotional and psychological needs.

In developmental psychology these objects are called “transitional objects”. As a child’s first possession, it plays an important role in psychological and social development. In the early stages of use, the object acts as a stand-in for the mother as an infant comes to understand it exists as a being separate from her. In a broader sense, the object provides security and comfort in the transitional space between a child’s inner world and external reality.

Comfort objects for me represent transitions between stages of childhood and the mourning and loss I experience as my children shed endearing habits and patterns associated with early childhood. It is also a vehicle for pondering the complex emotional world of childhood and the role physical objects play in meeting psychological needs.