Thursday, December 19, 2013



I never had an imaginary friend myself, but my cousin Lizzie did.  In fact, she had two; ‘Little Bill’ and ‘Jail’. Lizzie was an only child with older parents and I suspect that 'Little Bill' and 'Jail' kept her company by taking the place of siblings she never had.

Imaginary friends come in all sizes and can be casual visitors, constant companions, human or otherwise.  Perhaps 'Thumberlina' or the seven dwarfs started off as imaginary friends and became children’s stories?

Invisible friends can be good company for preschoolers in particular, and once they develop a wider social network than home, their 'friend' may quite naturally disappear.

Imaginary friends become useful indicators to parents on what their kids are thinking and feeling and may well be worth looking into.

Your child may tell you that his friend is:
  • Frightened of the dark.
  • Feels lonely or sad.
  • Feels guilty for telling lies.
  • Has been hiding things or sneaking food out of the fridge.
  • Doesn’t want to go to summer camp.
  • Hates carrots.
  • Wet your child's bed.
  • Hit someone at school. 
If the child starts acting in a perturbed manner, then it is certainly worth looking into.  Alex, my niece’s 4 year-old, has an imaginary friend named ‘Sydney’.  As Alex is the 5th of 7 children he certainly isn’t short on playmates. However, 'Sydney’ appears to be a dark friend who tells Alex to do naughty things all the time.  Maybe Alex feels as though he is not getting enough personal attention.
Parenting expert Amin Brott sets out the following rules for imaginary friends.  I have added some examples.
  • Don’t let the imaginary friend be your child’s only companion. 
  • Don’t let your child use their 'friend' as a crutch to blame for wrongdoing. 
  • Treat your child’s imaginary friend with respect.  Don’t dismiss the friend as a
  • Don't tell your child that 'Brewster' just left for China and isn’t coming back.
  • Don’t use their 'friend' to manipulate your child e.g. “Brewster isn’t scared
     of having a shot so you shouldn’t be either.”
Imaginary friends are a fun and healthy way for small children to extend their imagination.  In almost all instances these 'friends' become fond childhood memories once children expand their friendships and develop busy lives.  It is not healthy to continue to avoid the reality of life – to live in fantasy.  If you think your child may be in this category, then get expert help.  Otherwise, just go with the flow and enjoy your children and their imaginary friends.

Written by Sally Burgess

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