Written by Doctor G

Boy to Bunny Attachment: Good or Bad?

Dear Dr. G,

My 9-year-old still sleeps with his stuffed bunny.  He recently mentioned that he got teased about it (lord knows how it came up at school), and he said that he wanted to stop sleeping with bunny.  We told him we would help him break the bunny habit if HE wanted to do so, but that we clearly felt it should be up to him.  He should not care about what his friends think because he is in control of his life.  He decided to keep sleeping with bunny.

At the same time, I would kind of like him to break the bunny habit.  I’m not worried about solo sleeping–my sister brought her stuffed doggie to college, and it never hurt her development–but my wife and I are worried about sleepovers, camp and such. Both our boys have trouble socializing, so I don’t want to make it harder.

Did we do the right thing?  Should I bring up the subject again if he doesn’t?  Help!

Puzzled in Pittsburgh

What a common issue this is, especially for elementary school boys.  I have one question for you:

What do you want him to learn from this experience?

If you want him to learn to be true to himself, then you needn’t bring it up again.  You already taught this lesson.  You said “Do what makes sense to YOU, not to a classmate.”  It sounds like you have raised a boy who knows his own mind and is not too swayed by “public opinion.”  That is a great lesson.

If you want him to learn to adapt to the expectations of his peer group when he is with them, that is also a valuable lesson.  The next time it comes up naturally – like when you are sitting on his bed before he falls asleep – look at the bunny and say “So how are you feeling about this?”    Listen to what he has to say.

You can suggest that he mostly keep sleeping with the bunny if he’d like.  Explain that, if he wants to, he can learn the skill of spending a night without him occasionally so that it doesn’t present an obstacle for sleepovers and camp, etc.  I think it will be much easier for him to approach it like a skill as opposed to seeing a dear (if stuffed) friend he has to set aside forever.  You could even offer to “babysit” his bunny in your room on nights he is away.  Boys often try to suppress their urge to nurture, and it is great to show that you value that side of him.

Stuffed animals are a great way for boys to get the practice nurturing of which society often deprives them.  Expressing love, exploring feelings are something that boys do not get to practice much in play with other boys.  Since these are skills we expect from them as adults, we should let them take the opportunity to practice whenever they will.

He would need to practice sleeping apart so that the pain of separation doesn’t hit him at the friend’s house.  If he is at all analytical (like a lot of boys this age) he will like the idea of being able to choose whether he sleeps with his bunny on a nightly basis.  Also, it’s worthwhile mentioning to him that his “friends” are probably nervous about their own stuffed animal habits and testing the social waters by making fun of his attachment.

You are clearly being very intentional and thoughtful about this topic.  Having a Dad who supports his need for attachment can only help him to develop into a strong man.

Anyone have any great stuffed animal stories?


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3 thoughts on “Boy to Bunny Attachment: Good or Bad?”

  1. Yukimi Miyashita

    Hello. My 11-year-old also still sleeps with his stuffed bunny. We have moved/and will move place to place, and he has been with the bunny since he was 1 year old. He sleeps with more than 10 animals but the bunny is special. He brought his bunny to the 20days residintial summer camp (had hid it in his sleeping bag). He brings it to wherever he goes except for his school (makes his 5-year-old sister hold). He talks to it with pretending bunny’s very high voice everyday. He says he understand what bunny think. Is he still within the okay range?

    1. Yukimi,
      It sounds like your son has formed a stronger than usual attachment to his bunny. Perhaps this is a good connection for him to help with all the moving around your family needs to do. If you are wondering about his social-emotional development, this is a great question to ask his teachers (they are experts in social and emotional development), a youth group advisor or trusted coach, or your son’s doctor.

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