5 ways to help junior handle losing his toy

Follow these strategies to help your child deal with the loss of a precious comfort object.

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While on a family vacation six months ago, the unthinkable happened to 2-year-old David Chiang. He lost his favourite stuffed dog, Max. “We were on a train and David was in the stroller, holding on to Max,” recalls David’s mum Elizabeth Chiang. “After getting off and walking for about 10 minutes, we realised Max was missing.”

The family traced their steps back to the train station and even asked the staff working there, but unfortunately Max was never found. Needless to say, little David was devastated. “Max was his constant companion. My son would take his toy everywhere he went, even to bed,” says Chiang.

The next few days were challenging as David found it difficult to sleep without his bedtime buddy and constantly cried for him. When they got home, the Chiangs bought David a replica of his beloved stuffed dog ― plus another three of the same plushie, so they’ll always have one on standby. “After what happened, we’ve learnt to travel with a backup toy as well,” adds Chiang.   

Tots and their toys

It’s not uncommon for toddlers to form an attachment to a certain toy or a comfort item like a blanket. “It’s a way for them to have a sense of security when they need it most, such as during bedtime, in time of separation from parents, in unusual situations, when frightened, upset or simply tired,” explains Maguelonne Rousseau a training consultant and parenting expert at Conscious Parenting, which organises regular parenting workshops and talks.

“When your child’s pain is being acknowledged…she will succeed in connecting with her feelings and can understand that it’s okay to feel bad and solutions can be found to feel good again.”

Rousseau notes that the attachment usually happens during the first or second year of the child’s life, usually at the same time when separation anxiety peaks. In a way, the toy acts as a coping mechanism for your child as they transition from one life experience to the next. It might also be their best friend. Which is why the emotions they experience when they lose their toy or lovie are similar to the ones we adults experience when we lose something of sentimental value.

These feelings include sadness, melancholy, loneliness, grief, anger and frustration, points out Rousseau. “A particularly challenging emotion is the feeling of permanence of loss and the inability to recover from it.”

Taking your child’s loss seriously is key to helping them pick up the pieces and move on. When junior learns early on that they can overcome painful feelings and emotions and still find happiness, it will be easier for them to repeat this positive pattern later on in life.

“When your child’s pain is being acknowledged instead of being dismissed, she will succeed in connecting with her feelings and can understand that it’s okay to feel bad and solutions can be found to feel good again,” adds Rousseau.

As she comes to grips with more of such experiences, it will get easier for them to recognise negative emotions, ask for help, and find healthy ways to overcome the pain. But junior will need your help to practice this skill many times before they can master it. Here are five ways you can help your tot cope with the loss of a toy…