One fine day when your kid is playing happily in her room and you walk in casually to just check up on her just to find her speaking to someone who is not there! Should you be scared? Is it even normal? Well, fret not. Your child has an imaginary friend and it is ok. Not only is your little one absolutely normal but is also pretty creative. So, brace yourself to deal with the situation. The good news is, it is very common in children and memories of this invisible entity fades away as the child grows up.
Any pediatrician will tell you that having imaginary friends is a part of child development. It is a sign that your child is learning the art of role play, improving his or her verbal skills and developing creativity. The common mistakes parents do is that when they come to know about this imaginary friend they try to interact with ‘him’ to make their kid more comfortable and as a result, the child stops imagining the person. More often, parents try to interact and strike conversations with these imaginary creations, which actually ends up interfering the child’s development and the friend disappears in thin air. You should not do it rather; you should tackle it in a healthier way.
Imaginary friends in children surface during the ages of 3 and 4 years. A first born can make an imaginary friend a bit earlier as well. This imaginary friend can be another child, an animal, a toy, or anything that your child has recently seen and loved. The friend can also be a magical person or a fairy. Sometimes, these friends change as a child grows up, and eventually disappear as the real world life takes over.
As your toddler starts conversing and exploring more and more about the world, he indulges himself in ‘pretend play’. From making a doll’s hair to sleeping with the bunny, or talking and serving tea to an imaginary “Dolly” to playing with a imaginary “Noddy”– all this forms a part of a kids’ normal development. Children who are the eldest or the only child are more likely to have pretend friends in the age group of 3-5 years. This does not necessarily indicate that the child is lonely, and when the world dawns over him, this imaginary friend will disappear from his life.
From objects – like the doll or the bunny, to invisible humans, shapes and animals – anyone can take the place of your child’s imagination and creativity. It can also be a fairy, a magical person, or even a star. Boys tend to invent only male imaginary friends, whereas girls can either have male or female ones. The friends can be described in detail by the child.
Your child’s imaginary friend is not your enemy. Take this imaginative character in your stride and mould him in such a way so that it enhances your child’s cognitive and creative development. Be happy that your child has a rich imagination power and at the same time do your bit to keep him in touch with reality as much as possible. Yes, if you think it is going overboard or God forbid your child has been through a traumatic experience then you can go ahead and consult your doctor.
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