Imaginary Friends

Imaginary Friends

Does your child have an imaginary friend?  If so, it is nice to know this is nothing to worry about.  Roughly two-thirds of children have an imaginary friend at some point during early childhood, and it is not a sign that your child is lonely, anti-social, or psychotic.

Keep in mind that young children perceive, process, and analyze the world with a different set of mental machinery than their parents possess.  Consequently, they sometimes feel inadequate or dissatisfied when attempting to do or discuss various things with their mothers and fathers.  And children at this stage of life tend to be extremely self-centered, so peers sometimes do not constitute a suitable alternative.  Meanwhile, an imaginary friend is a custom-made companion who is ready, willing, and able to interact with the child on his level and in a way with which he feels totally comfortable.

In virtually every case, a child will eventually “grow out” of his need for an imaginary friend.  However, parents can make the process easier and more effective in two ways.  First, acknowledge that the imaginary friend exists, at least figuratively.  You don’t have to go so far as to set an extra place at the dinner table, and you definitely can’t allow your child to blame the imaginary friend for any of his own misdeeds.  But don’t make your child feel that he is being “silly” or “stupid” when he talks about or talks to his invisible buddy.

Second, make sure that your child’s imaginary friend is not his only friend.  Regularly exposing him to peers by enrolling him in Romp n’ Roll classes or other such activity will give him the opportunity to gradually develop the attitude and skills he will need to make interacting with real people ultimately more appealing and productive.