Imaginary FriendsFebruary 22, 2018
There is no harm in having an imaginary friend. In fact, research shows that having an imaginary friend is linked to increased creativity later in life, as well as strong verbal skills and a good understanding of social interactions.
Imaginary friends serve many important functions.
- They are trustworthy. All children have secrets and want some privacy at times. Imaginary friends can be wonderful secret keepers!
- They serve as companions. Imaginary friends are great playmates.
- They are great for moral development. Your child child can blame their misbehavior on their imaginary friend (for example, “I didn’t eat the ice cream Mommy, Suzie did!”). Your child is beginning to distinguish between “right” and “wrong,” but isn’t ready to assume full responsibility, so they blame their imaginary friend.
- They can give you a look into your child’s internal, emotional world. You might even hear advice that you’ve given to your child in the past repeated in their imaginary play (for example, “It’s okay Suzie, don’t be scared, I’m sure everybody will be very nice.”).
Tips for Caregivers:
- Treat your child’s imaginary friends with respect. Try moving over if your child asks you to make room for their friend.
- Follow your child’s lead when joining in on their pretend play. Be careful not to take over or add too much. This is an opportunity for your child to make up stories and to learn by exploring their own thoughts and feelings.
- If your child blames their imaginary friend for their misbehavior or mistake, use it as a teaching opportunity. For example, if your child’s imaginary friend spilled the juice, you can say, “That’s okay, mistakes happen, but let’s help them clean up the mess.”
Interestingly, children hold onto their imaginary friends longer than you might think. Some research shows that children as old as seven have at least one imaginary friend.
Don’t worry though, as children mature, and gain the social, cognitive, and emotional skills to understand their complicated worlds, all of them eventually come to realize that their friends are “just pretend.”
For more information on pretend play, click here!
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