Dealing with toddler imaginary friends
The all-systems-go imagination of a 3-year-old can conjure up a new presence in your home — your child’s imaginary playmate. Although it can be startling to suddenly hear your child talking to a pretend pal, this development is common and very positive. In fact, it’s a healthy sign that you have a creative child. Imaginary friends are great for kids — and are another sign that this present year is one of the most magical of childhood. This article will show what to do in dealing with toddler imaginary friends.
SIGNS OF THE PRESENCE OF IMAGINARY FRIENDS
Been asked to set an extra place at dinner for an imaginary friend yet? As many as half of preschoolers have a pretend buddy. These phantoms don’t mean your child is lonely or maladjusted. In fact, kids with imaginary friends are more likely to grow up to be creative, cooperative, sociable, independent, and happy.
An imaginary friend can be human or animal and usually comes with a name and distinct personality. Part confidant, part playmate, part protector, and part scapegoat, they help kids practice relationship building and let them be in control for a change. A pretend friend can be a child’s way of handling an increasingly demanding, expanding world.
Watching your child’s interactions with her imaginary friend can give you useful insights into her fears and stresses. If her imaginary playmate is afraid of monsters under the bed, then your daughter may be, too.
WHAT TO DO
Although it’s wise to be respectful of your child’s imaginary friend, try not to get involved in the relationship. For example, avoid using imaginary friends as a way to manipulate your child (“Harvey ate his peas, why can’t you?”). Instead, follow her lead. She knows deep down this is an imaginary creation, and it can be a bit alarming to her if you buy into it too readily. These extra members of the family usually disappear by age 7, as your child becomes immersed in the very real-life world of school.