Does your child have an imaginary friend?

Imaginary friends are a common (and perfectly normal) manifestation for many kids across many stages of development.

Believe it or not, nearly two-thirds of children have had imaginary friends. Imaginary friends help children express their feelings and practise social skills. As children get older, they usually stop playing with imaginary friends and start playing with real friends instead.

What is an imaginary friend?

An imaginary friend is an invisible character that a child talks to and plays with for an extended period of time. Imaginary friends are often a source of concern for many parents, but they need not be.

It is quite common for young children to have imaginary friends. There is still much which is not known about these figures, but what has been discovered in recent research suggests mainly positive associations of having an imaginary pal.

All about your child’s new playmate

  • Imaginary friends occur in various different forms, and their manifestation is often influenced by your child’s external experiences. They may be humans or animals, everyday objects or characters from TV or a book.
  • Some children have one constant imaginary friend, while others have a number of them.
  • Every child with a fantasy friend interacts slightly differently with his or her invisible friend – some children talk to their imaginary friends, while others talk for them, thereby seeming to have a conversation all by themselves.
  • Children create imaginary playmates in order to keep themselves entertained.
  • Children often use their imaginary friend(s) as a scapegoat and blame them for everything that goes wrong, from taking cookies before supper to breaking a window.
  • Your child will most likely not remember her imaginary friend when she is older.
  • Imaginary friends generally disappear just as suddenly as they appear.

How to handle the situation

Many children will let their imaginary friends go as they grow older. Meanwhile, parents should take their child’s lead when it comes to imaginary friends, while keeping the following three things in mind:

  1. Don’t make fun of your child’s imaginary friend or directly contradict their existence.
  2. Ridiculing the imaginary friend can negatively affect the child’s self-esteem.
  3. Obliging little requests such as setting an extra place at the dinner table or holding a car door open for an imaginary friend will certainly not harm your child, and will probably make your life easier too.


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