How many parents have made extra accommodations to suit a child and their imaginary friend? My mother used to have to buckle my own imaginary friend in next to me on car rides or I’d scream at her. As a four year old, I knew my imaginary friend wasn’t real. I was quite aware that he was imaginary and only a play thing made up by my own mind. Do all children see their invisible playmates this way?
Studies suggest that most children are highly aware that their imaginary friends are not real. While some parents think it is an early sign of mental disorder, it seems to be nothing more than children allowing their imaginations to run wild. Although hallucinations can start at any age, imaginary friends rarely seem to be related to any mental issues.
Parents shouldn’t worry if their child shows interest in a fictional companion. Research shows that most intelligent children create imaginary friends in their early childhood stages. Hearing a child speak of a friend who isn’t really there may help them develop language skills. Typically, the children will carry on conversations and interact with their imaginary friends. This leads to a faster development in social and linguistic abilities at a younger age than children who do not have imaginary friends.
While some parents fear that imaginary friends will cause their children to lack social development, most imaginary friends seem to vanish as the children attend school. This may be due to the children seeking real social interaction and no longer having need for an imaginary playmate. If the child still speaks of their imaginary friend after they’ve reached school age, there is nothing to worry about. Imaginary friends rarely stick around past elementary school.
In my own experience, I gave up acknowledging my imaginary friend around the time I reached first grade. I was shy and thought the other children might think I was stranger if I were to speak to a fictional character around them. After a few months in the grade, I’d almost totally forgotten my imaginary friend. I no longer had need for him at all as I began to make real friends.
To conclude, do not worry if your child has an imaginary friend. Their over-active imagination usually helps them develop important skills and may show signs of their intelligence. Do not attempt to break the imaginary friend habit. There seems to be no ill side effects to allowing a child to act out their imagination. Allow your child to be a child and rest assured knowing they are probably just exercising their imaginations.