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  • Writer's pictureJoyce Ng

All You Need to Know about Your Child's Imaginary Friends

Image credits: Unsplash

You're eating out with your child in a kids-friendly restaurant and you're told to make room for "Jessie," an invisible friend — but, are imaginary friends normal, and how far do you have to play along?

What Are Imaginary Friends?

Imaginary friends, also known as an imaginary companion, are make-believe companions that are created by many children. They can be another child, mythical creature, animal or even a soft toy. Usually, they're nothing to worry about.

Why Do Kids Have Imaginary Friends?

Well, some kids develop pretend buddies to fulfil their need for friendship — and this is more common among firstborn or only child. Others simply just want to put their new social skills to use or to process the things they see and experience.

Your little munchkin's imaginary friend could be someone who:

  • is willing to listen and be by their side

  • provides companionship

  • doesn't judge or find fault in them

  • only belongs to them

  • allows them to play in a more creative way

  • lets your child be the one in charge

Benefits Of An Imaginary Friend

Some benefits of an imaginary friends include:

  • A helpline to ease your child through tough transitions and routines, such as going back to school after a school holiday

  • Letting you start difficult conversations with your child

  • An opportunity to explore ideas, new behaviours and roles

  • Help your child better manage their emotions

How To Support Your Child's Imaginary Friend

Below are a few recommendations on how to navigate problems that arises because of an imaginary friend.

Know When To Play Along — And When Not To

In circumstances when your child is blaming bad behaviour on an imaginary friend, don't play along! In fact, you can tell your kid that this is not something that their imaginary friend could have done. Then follow up with an appropriate consequence, such as asking your child to clean up the mess. This teaches your child that they should be responsible for whatever they or their imaginary friend does.

Have Frequent Discussions

As mentioned previously, imaginary friends can be a scary mythical creature — and this can cause nightmares and fear! In cases like this, you're encouraged to have frequent discussions with your child to reinforce that scary imaginary friend doesn't exist.

Related article:

When Do Imaginary Friends Become A Problem?

Talking Through Imaginary Friends

In some cases, your child might insist on consulting with their imaginary friends all the time — for instance, "let me ask Jessie first". They might even get you to speak to their friend, instead of directly to your child. Frustrating right? Fret not, you can simply tell your child that you want to hear what they think, instead of what Jessie thinks.

Asking You To Do Things For Imaginary Friends

Getting you to prepare another plate of meal just for Jessie?! If Jessie's demands are getting out of hand, be sure to reject the request. Make sure not to let your child's imaginary friend turn into a means of letting your child exert massive control over the family.

Related article:

Imaginary Friends Over The Real Ones?!

And that — is a major red flag. If your child refuses opportunities to engage with other child for the sake of playing with the imaginary friend, that's when you should be more wary of what your child is dealing with, in the real world.

Related article:

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