Does Your Child Have An Imaginary Friend? | The Momma Diaries

Monday, December 2, 2013

Does Your Child Have An Imaginary Friend?

Most people will agree that imaginary friends are a perfectly normal stage of your child’s
development, but that doesn’t stop some parents from worrying that they’re spending more time in their own minds than in the real world.

If your child has an imaginary friend, try not to worry too much about it. It’s a natural part of growing up and can help with cognitive thinking, imagination, problem solving and rationalisation. In fact, research by the University of Washington suggested that over two thirds of children will have one at some point during their childhood – it’s how to deal with them as parents that can be a bit difficult to get your head around.

Other research conducted by Durham University suggested that having imaginary friends encouraged children to talk to themselves which was an early indicator of complex and internalised thinking. Eventually, children will turn this sort of chat into private thoughts, which we all use as we grow and develop.

So, how can parents handle an imaginary friend, tactfully and with understanding?

• Observe them as they play with their imaginary friend. Perhaps they pour a cup of tea for
them with their Say Please Tea Set, or offer them a piece of cake. It shows creativity and
the development of a perfectly healthy imagination.

• Follow their lead. If they want their pretend friend to remain private, don’t try to ask too
many questions about them, or try to interact with them yourself; they’ll likely disappear –
and there’s nothing wrong with a little make-believe, is there?

• If you’re asked to join in the play, do so! Just don’t take over. Leave the ball in their court so
that they can easily distinguish between what’s real and what’s not.

• Turn it to your advantage. Perhaps your child drags her feet getting ready when you really
need her to be a little quicker – turn it into a game and encourage her to have a race with
her imaginary friend, or something along those lines.

Make sure that you do take into account any potential underlying reasons; more often than not, there won’t be any, but through observation, you may pick up on something that could be a root cause. Perhaps they struggle to make real friends or they may feel a little withdrawn in social situations. Talk to your child so that they can vocalise their feelings and you’ll probably find that their imaginary friend is simply their imagination running wild!

Disclosure: The Momma Diaries sometimes features guest posts when relative to the site.

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