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Imaginary friends
Imaginary friends

What are imaginary friends?

Imaginary friends are pretend friends that your child makes up in his imagination.

Imaginary friends come in all shapes and sizes. They can be based on someone your child already knows, a storybook character or even a soft toy. Or they can come purely from your child’s imagination.

Why do children have imaginary friends?

Your child’s imaginary friend could be someone who:

  • listens to and supports your child
  • plays with your child
  • can do things that your child can’t do
  • is special and belongs only to your child
  • doesn’t judge or find fault with your child.

Your child is in charge of what the imaginary friend says, what the friend does and who this special friend can ‘play’ with. This could be part of the friend’s appeal too.

Imaginary friends allow children to explore a make-believe world that they create all by themselves. In fact, children with make-believe friends might be more imaginative and more likely to enjoy fantasy play and magical stories.

Handling issues with imaginary friends

Here are some ideas for times when your child’s imaginary friend has become hard to handle.

Doing things for imaginary friends - You might find that you’re being asked to hold open doors, fix a snack or make up a bed for your child’s imaginary friend. Rather than doing it yourself, encourage your child to hold the door open, set a place for the friend at dinner or make up the bed. This way you’re accepting the imaginary friend but also taking the opportunity to develop your child’s skills.

Talking through imaginary friends - Some children insist on consulting with their imaginary friends all the time – for example, ‘I have to ask Sammy first’. They might also ask you to speak to their friend, rather than directly to them. If this is getting frustrating, try saying to your child, ‘I want to hear what you think – not what Sammy thinks’.

Blaming imaginary friends - Sometimes children will do or say something they shouldn’t have and blame their imaginary friends. You can handle this by clearly telling your child that the imaginary friend could not have done this. Then follow up with an appropriate consequence, like making your child clean up the mess.

 

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