We are always wondering if
our children are “normal”. We don’t mean to do it, but nevertheless,
it’s something that we do all of the time. From the time that we first
count those ten toes and ten fingers, we’re subconsciously (or consciously)
comparing our kids to some ideal standard of what is “normal” and
wondering how they measure up. And when it comes to areas of life that aren’t
so easy to understand, we often have trouble figuring out what’s “normal”
and how to deal with it. Often, this is the case when it comes to imaginary
We wonder if it is “normal”
for our kids to have imaginary friends. Of course it is. But at what age does
it stop being normal? Or what behaviors in interacting with these imaginary
friends are not normal? We worry, because we want our kids to have a healthy
level of social and emotional development. Here are some things to think about
which can help you alleviate those concerns:
- It is
(meaning common) for children to have imaginary friends.
usually turn up in a child’s life during the preschool years and often
fade out of the child’s life during elementary school.
are more common among first born children and only children and may reflect
the child’s desire to have increased interaction with other children.
Preschool groups can assist with this.
friends represent the creative side of your child’s brain so
you should never discourage your child from healthy exploration of this part
often keep their imaginary friends to themselves. While it’s appropriate
to ask questions about the imaginary friend to ascertain what your child believes
about the situation, you shouldn’t pretend to interact or play with
your child’s imaginary friends unless your child invites you to do so.
If you’re still having
concerns that your child’s experience with an imaginary friend isn’t
normal, here are some warning signs for negative play with imaginary friends.
regularly refuses to play with other children and only wants to play with
the imaginary friend.
imaginary friends linger into the older elementary school years.
- The imaginary
is introduced into play with other friends who make fun of your child.
acts out behavior with the imaginary friend which is violent, sexual in nature
or otherwise indicative of an underlying problem. In this case, your child
may be using the imaginary friend to try to tell you something that he or
she can’t tell you alone.
As a general rule, it’s
perfectly “normal” for your preschooler to have imaginary friends.
They help your child exercise his or her imagination and provide additional
stimulation during playtime. And of course, all children develop differently
so your child’s interaction and length of time spent with the imaginary
friend may vary from that of other children of the same age. As long as you
don’t see any of the above warnings signs, you can probably assume that
the imaginary friends are a fun phase that your child will pass as he or she
begins to enter elementary school age.
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