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31 Mar 2003

Imaginary friends
Hi<br>My three and a half year old daughter has three imaginary friends. What is the psychological explanation for having imaginary friends? I know it is a way of developing imagination but surely there's something more to it? Why do some kids have them and others not? She is the only child - does that have something to do with it?

Also: how should I deal with it? Play along, etc?<br>Thanks!
Answer 389 views
Expert
CyberShrink
cybershrink

01 Jan 0001

Dear mother,
Actually, imaginary friends are both normal and quite common, and generally nothing to worry about. Maybe they're more common among only children, but even kids with broters and sisters can decide to supplement their plamates with an imaginary friend--- seen as another child, or a rabbit, or a wizard, or whatever. Children have terrific power of the imagination, and feel freer to exercise this than we inhibited adults are.
What one generally does, so as on the one hand not to squash what may be a charming game the kid is playing, and on the other hand, to encourage them to maintain normal contact with reality, one may ask for information about the imaginary friend ( name, characteristics ) and even ask about their doings, without suggesting that the i.f is real For You, while acknowledging that it is, for the time being at least, Real for the child. So we as adults don't usually pretend that we can see and hear the i.f. ( if we tried, we'd be bound to put our foot in it, anyway, to claim to have seen or heard quite the wrong thing ! ) but we'd maintain the sort of mild interest we might in the child's school-friends, accepting reports about teir activities.
Three imaginary friends sounds like quite a generous number, mind you. It could get crowded in the play-room, this way.
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