Imaginary Friends

Children often have imaginary friends, especially from the time they’re three until they start elementary school. Sometimes the friends are humans, but other times their mates are animals. These imaginary friends can “appear” from time to time. Or, they can be with a child on a daily basis.

Imaginary friends give a child someone to talk to and play with. These made-up companions always want to play the same games that a child does. And, they can easily carry on a conversation with the child as well. And, why not? Since imaginary friends are a product of a child’s mind, the thoughts of the friend will pretty much be the thoughts of the child.

You as a parent or grandparent may wonder if having an imaginary friend is normal for your child. You may also wonder why your child feels the need for such a made-up type of companion. The experts have concluded that imaginary friends are normal for a well-adjusted child to have. Instead of suffering from loneliness, your child can easily conjure up a playmate in a matter of seconds. Or, when your child feels the need to talk to someone he or she can trust, an imaginary friend can fill the need there too. Maybe Mom or Dad is too busy doing work around the house to give the child time.

Another positive thing about your child having an imaginary friend is that you can get clues as to what your child is thinking by listening to “their” conversations. For example, a child will often tell her thoughts through their companion. If you sit down at the dinner table (with the invisible guest being present) and your child says to you, “Jack says he doesn’t like carrots,” you know who it is that doesn’t want to eat his or her vegetables. Why don’t they just tell you outright? Your child is probably afraid. Let’s say, for another example, the rule of the dinner table is that the child has to eat all their vegetables. Your child knows this is the rule, but they’re afraid to try and go against it. But “Jack” can go against the rules since he is a “guest” at the dinner table. And everyone knows that guests don’t have to eat their vegetables.

There’s nothing wrong with going along with your child and his or her claim to having an imaginary friend. To a certain extent, that is. If the game goes too far, you’ll need to step in and make your child tame their imagination.

For example, if your child refuses to play with other children, and only wants to play with their imaginary friend, there’s a problem. Children need to socialize with other children. If you must, you’ll need to make your child abandon the imaginary friend and join the real world. Encourage him or her to play with other children their age.

Don’t let your child blame their imaginary friend for things they do wrong either. Your child needs to learn they are responsible for their actions. Their guiltiness can’t be pawned off on anyone else, especially an imaginary companion.

Usually by the time your child starts school, when he or she is meeting and seeing human friends every day, their imaginary friends will vanish.

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