As youngsters our world is filled with magical myths like the jolly Santa Claus who flies across our skies thanks to Rudolph and friends and brings so many, many presents in such a small sleigh! Then there’s the Easter Bunny we all love as he creeps around our homes, depositing hyperactivity’s best friend, the chocolate egg! Fairies from the stock exchange even get a turn, leaving money in lieu of decayed and broken teeth!
If this is the twisted magic we encourage our children to revel in as long as possible, why then, do so many of us discourage our children’s make-believe friends? Perhaps, because we have been told for so long that it is wrong? Maybe we’re afraid the -friend’ may just be a ghost? Or perhaps we fear to admit to even ourselves that the child in question may just be a present short of Santa’s quota?
Absolute nonsense, according to the professionals! Children who have imaginary friends are perfectly normal, and healthy. On top of this, there are more children out there with imaginary friends than without. Some may just never tell you.
The belief that make-believe friends indicates the child may be experiencing an emotional void but studies show that this is not true. Many times when children are asked why they have one or many imaginary friends they will tell you that it is fun. It has even been said that -imaginary friends spring not from a place of shadows but of sunlight’.
Sometimes, if parents have moved the family far from their original address and the family and friends associated with that, a child may well invite an imaginary friend into her life. This is done not because she has some deep-seated anger or fear of some sort, but because she has a little more time on her own and can use this as an outlet for her creativity.
There is no problem with a child doing this, but it is important for mum and dad to keep an eye on her other interactions with friends and other children.
Being shy or even timid is also not part and parcel of the typical characteristics of children indulging in make-believe friends. It is, in fact, the extrovert child – and not the introvert – who is far more likely to pursue such friendships.
Sometimes the -friends’ are human, animals, or famous television or movie characters. They may pop in from time to time and stay for a short visit, or they may move in to your home lock, stock and barrel!
Make sure your child has other (real!) friends, too. Encourage play dates so your child doesn’t become consumed with imaginary play only. It is also vital that you show your child’s imaginary friend due respect and if she -accepts’ your offer of juice and cookies then be sure to set her place at the snack table. But always talk to her through your child, never directly.
Keep an open mind and be relaxed about your child’s new friend, and never let any discomfort you may have be seen. This friend is important to your child so ignoring her, or them, will only be insulting your child. But it is a situation that needs close monitoring. Keep the boundaries fluid. If you demand your child -stops this nonsense’ you will only be planting a very large seen for emotional discontent.
Sit back and enjoy the magical mystery. Remember? Like you used to do all those years ago?