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Handling Pacifiers, Thumb or Finger Sucking, and Security Items




Pediatricians and child development experts view pacifier, thumb, or finger sucking as an extension of child is born. They consider it a normal part of early development. Most children give up finger or thumb sucking on their own as they learn other self-soothing and self-comforting behaviors. By the time children are three, they usually have transitioned to alternate behaviors. If your child is still sucking a thumb, finger, or pacifier as a preschooler, you and your child’s teacher can work together to address this concern.



As your baby matured, the sucking reflex disappeared and was replaced by your child’s use of sucking as a comfort strategy. He or she may still use sucking for calming down after losing control or to relax enough to fall asleep. Both of these coping strategies without helping children learn new ones. Many children transition from sucking a finger, thumb, or pacifier to using a security item of some kind. For some, the item is transitory and changing as long as it is something from home. For others, the intensity of the attachment requires parents to make sure the security object is always nearby.



Although attachment to a security item can become a problem, consider three issues when deciding about whether to be concerned about transitional objects:

1) the duration,

2) the intensity of the attachment, and

3) the distress caused by separation from the security item.


For example, teenagers rarely carry around transitional objects from early childhood but may, quite normally, keep them in a safe place in their rooms. Children who are traumatized if they misplace their transitional objects as they near the end of the early childhood period (which actually lasts until age eight) may be indicating the need for help to solve an underlying problem.

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