Is It Normal For My Child To Have An Imaginary Friend?

Written by Eve Bandusena | Parents Avenue’s Editorial Assistant

Image Source: NDTV

In the past, having imaginary friends was widely seen as a child being socially inept, awkward and often associated with various stigmas. However, today there are multitude of benefits to having imaginary friends and in light of recent studies, your child could be ahead of the social curve too. Read on to find out more about these fantasy buddies!

What is an imaginary friend?

Basically, an imaginary friend is personified as an external representation of a friendship a child creates that’s based purely in their imagination. Kids will usually start forming friendships with their imaginary beings starting from preschool to primary school. The fantasy buddy can be in the form stuffed animals, or, as the term denotes, an unseen friend that your child can play with.

Why do children invent imaginary friends?

According to child psychologist, Marjorie Taylor at the University of Oregon, “Most of the time, it’s just an elaborate form of play that children use to have fun, solve simple problems, such as fear of the dark.” Other times, these fantasy friends can be used to relay what they’re feeling, share what they’re fretting about, or even placing blame on their imaginary friend. In short, sometimes, kids feel less afraid of the dark when they know their fantasy friends are right there next to them.

Which of your children is more likely to have an imaginary friend? 

A modest amount of studies has been done to understand the inner makings of a child with imaginary friends. A study proposed that by birth order, firstborn children and an only child experience this phenomenon more often, and the need for these invisible buddies stem from the desire for friendships.

Other than that, it’s also been founded that girls have a higher likelihood of having fantasy buddies and that many children who grow up with imaginary friends develop into creative adults.

Different studies have also observed that girls will have a tendency of being supportive and nourishing in terms of their invisible friends, who typically are infant babies and animals. For boys, their idea of an imaginary friend takes on more capable than they are themselves such as heroes.


How to get along with your child’s imaginary friend?

Firstly, don’t ridicule your child’s imaginary friends and don’t challenge the validity of your child’s fantasy friend but rather welcome them and get acquainted with them. Ask questions like, “What is your friend’s name?” or, “What is their hobby?”

At times, there will be situations where your child’s imaginary friend will misbehave. When this occurs, you can involve your child and your imaginary friend solving their problem together.

Don’t be afraid to draw a line towards your child’s imaginary friends too. If your child wants an extra pillow, or an extra plate for their friend, you can say no. And, instead get your child to share their pillow, or, plate instead.

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The surprising benefits of having imaginary friends?

As featured on Moms, here are some benefits that comes with your child’s imaginary friend!

·        It promotes creativity


It takes a very creative mind to not only imagine a whole other person but to also imagine all the things a person says or does. So, if a child is having an imaginary friend, parents will most of the time simultaneously notice an increase in the creativity of the child, and this can be further nourished by encouraging the child (and their invisible buddy) to do a creative activity such as drawing or crafting.


·        Better vocabulary


The best way to improve a child’s vocabulary is to start talking to them. Unfortunately, as much as parents would love to talk to their children all day long, they have errands and tasks to do, which leaves children are left to entertain themselves. By doing this, that means by imagining a friend, their constantly talking or, being talked to thereby they are always working on their vocabulary.


·        It promotes abstract thinking


Now, while some children struggle with abstract thinking even when they get older, those who have imaginary friends tend to be way better at it. Again, it has to do with imagining something that isn’t actually there, visualizing it in a very unique way only known to the child. Abstract thinking is definitely a very important skill for children to learn and understand especially when they get older.


·        Better social skills


Because those kids with an imaginary friend always have someone around, they also naturally tend to more easily develop better social skills and this helps them develop faster than other kids! Even though these interactions are a product of their imagination, they are still very much real to them, and they can even sometimes be slightly uncomfortable which means they learn to deal with all sorts of social situations very early on.


·        Better understanding of other’s emotion


According to some studies, kids with imaginary friends tend to be more empathetic towards others and they usually accept and understand other people’s emotions much better. Besides that, better understanding other people’s emotions comes directly from understanding our own emotions first. And, who doesn’t want their child to grow into a person who understands, accepts and keep their emotions in check.

Image Source: Nashville Parent
Should parents be worried about this?
The answer is definitely, not! It’s completely normal for your child to have an imaginary friend. What you’re seeing your child’s creative abilities coming into play. It’s a way for your child to express themselves while exploring the world around them. Besides that, the popular notion of kids with invisible pals being lonely or, socially awkward is nothing more than a common misconception. Instead, children with imaginary friends are ahead of the social curb in terms of building social skills.

When will children outgrow their imaginary friends?
Generally, children will outgrow their fantasy buddies in primary school, however, it’s also been seen that figment friends can stay up to when a child hits their tweens. However, cases of this are seen as quite rare.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases. At Parents Avenue, we strongly recommend all our readers to seek medical advise from your local hospital or clinic. Thank you. 

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