Parent Question: My three-and-a-half-year-old ‘left’ her pacifier at her grandparents and it can’t be found. She uses it to sleep. Going to bed and in the morning when she wakes up seem to be the hardest for her. How can we reassure her that she doesn’t need it? How can we help her and encourage her along the way?
It has been about three weeks since she stopped using it. Since then, she’s had a constant need to be held and has been digressing to baby behavior. When I leave for work, she tells me not to go to work because she wants me to stay home with her. She has been super sensitive. I am thinking all of this is normal and part of the process. But, I wonder if there is anything else I could be doing to help her? At what point should I be concerned and think this is past normal transition time?
Answer: Lots of empathy: “I know this is hard. I see you are sad, you miss your pacifier.” Lots of hugs and downtime. Offer her activities she likes during the hardest parts of the day. If she likes to play dolls, offer to play first thing in the morning and let her sleep with one at night. Maybe read an extra story or sing an extra song at bedtime. It can take a few weeks to build new sleep associations and to let go of a comfort object. Maybe take her out and let her pick a new stuffed animal or soft pillow to sleep with.
A guideline for life stressors is +/- six to eight weeks for young children. That is usually referring to something like a new baby in the house which seems a bit bigger than this, but it may be just that big a deal to her. I would only talk about it (and openly talk about it) when she brings it up. Otherwise, I would stay mum to not remind her. When she does bring it up, express a bit of empathy, a hug and move on. Try not to wallow. The ‘super sensitive’ is par for the course. Regression is also a common response to stressors. Again, think downtime everyday, relaxed playtime where she decides what to do, keep bedtime routines intact and respect sleep! Children who are stressed are far worse when they are tired. Try to maintain normal schedules. I hope this helps!