Imaginary friends are friends that your child dreams up in his imagination. They come in all sizes and shapes and are typically based on something familiar to your child, such as a storybook character or a soft toy. They are purely a figment of your child’s imagination. These friends may not be present all the time and may come and go. They might also only be present in certain areas of the house.
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At what age do these imaginary friends appear and when do they go away?
Children from as young as two and a half years can have an imaginary friend. Kids generally stop playing with pretend friend, whether they had one or several, as soon as they are ready to move forward. Imaginary friends usually stick around for several months and can be part of your child’s life for up to three years.
Why do children dream up imaginary friends?
An imaginary friend can be someone that:
- Supports them and listens to them
- Plays with them
- Can do things that your child is not able to
- Has a special place in your child’s heart and belongs only to them
- Is not judgemental or does not find fault
Your child is the one who decides what the imaginary friend says, does, and who he can play with. Having an imaginary friend allows your child to create an imaginary world that they enjoy. One that involves fantasy and magical stories.
What can imaginary friends tell you about your child’s feelings?
Pretend friends can give you invaluable insight into your child’s inside world, her dislikes, tastes, and likes. Often, kids with imaginary friends are more social and not as shy as other kids. They may also display more empathy in their play amongst other kids.
How to handle the issue with imaginary friends
Here are a few tips on how to address the issue of your child’s imaginary friends that has become difficult to handle.
Being asked to do certain things for the imaginary friend
Your child might ask you to hold the door open, to make a bed, or fix a snack for his imaginary buddy. Instead of doing it, rather encourage your child to do these things. This way you show that you are accepting of his friend, but you are also making the best of this opportunity to develop your child’s dexterities.
Blaming the imaginary friend
In some instances, the child might say or do something they are not supposed to and blame it on their imaginary friend. You must be firm in telling him or her that the imaginary friend could not have done it, followed by the appropriate consequence. For example, cleaning up the mess they have made.
Talking to you through the imaginary friend
Some children may insist on speaking to their imaginary friends or they might ask you to speak to the friend instead of them. If you are getting frustrated with this, try saying to your child that you would really like to hear what they are thinking, not the imaginary friend.
When to speak to your doctor
In rare cases, imaginary friends are a symptom of underlying issues that your child may have. If you have any concerns about the imaginary friend, for instance, if this friend is malicious or your child has gone through a traumatic event recently, speak to your doctor or a health professional.