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There is a right and wrong way to separate your child from a cherished bedtime pal

For many kids around the country, bedtime means getting read a story, being tucked in, and snuggling up with a favorite stuffed animal. Having a plush toy or blankie in bed with them every night gives them a sense of security throughout the dark hours. And although craving the comfort of a teddy bear at night seems childish—similar to sucking a thumb at night—there’s no specific age that’s deemed “too old” for the habit. In other words, it’s normal for your kid to hold onto a nighttime buddy later than you might think that he or she should.

That said, some parents might want to break their child of the habit for one reason or another. If that’s the case, there is a right way to do it. First, don’t try to make the change when there are other transitions happening (your child is starting school, you are moving to a new house or city, or you’re having a new baby). That might overwhelm your child. Wait until everything has settled down before trying to do it.

Then, remember that the name of the game is to go gradually. If your kid normally has a few stuffed animals in the bed, narrow it down to one instead of ditching all of them at the same time (so your kid doesn’t feel a huge sense of loss). You should also let your child play with the stuffed animals during the day, so they lose their status as nighttime items. Your kid will start to see the teddy bear as a toy—just like his or her blocks or dolls—and not a necessity.

Don’t be surprised if your child seems completely unattached from a bear or blanket for a few months and then grabs for it again. Any time there’s a moment when your son or daughter feels the need for a little extra comfort, the bear or blanket may prove irresistible. But, chances are, your child will wean him- or herself off it again when the time is right.