Being three or four years old in an expanding world can be daunting. By creating a friend to help her or him through this time your child is being both resourceful and ingenious says Dr Jinan Harith Darwish.
It is pretty common for children of about three or four years to have an imaginary friend. This may be another child or could be a magical person or an animal. Sometimes the imaginary friends change as the child grows older.
Frequently, children who have imaginary friends are only children or the oldest child in the family; but having an imaginary friend does not mean that your child is lonesome. They are usually creative, imaginative children.
As the child grows older the real world takes over and by the time he or she is going to school, the imaginary friend usually just quietly disappears.Imaginary friends are true to these children and this is quite different to lying.
Imaginary friends are a part of normal development and rather than being a problem they can aid children to deal with some of the stresses in their lives.
On occasion, an imaginary friend can help parents to see where a problem is. Now and then children may use their imaginary friends to evade doing something they don’t want to. If the child continues to opt for the friend often, rather than doing things in the real world, it is helpful to have a look at what is going on in their life and think about ways to help.
Here are some of ways you can respond to your child’s imaginary friend:
Allow your child take the lead in how you respond. If it is a private relationship and the child wants you to stay out of it, follow that lead. If you are asked to join in the play, then do so. Typically you will be asked to make room for the friend in different ways such as providing a seat in the car, not lying on the friend in a bed and maybe providing things like a fork or plate for the friend.
While accommodating the way your child wants you to act towards the friend, it is useful if you don’t get too caught up and take over or add your own ideas to the story. It helps your child to work out what is real and what isn’t if you stay grounded in the real world most of the time. If you take over or add to the story, you are taking over your child’s need to create his or her own story.
For example, if the friend is always to blame when the child does something wrong, it will be helpful to take it out of a ‘blame’ situation. For example, if the child says his naughty teddy broke the plate, you could say that mistakes are to learn from and that you will help him to clean up the mess for the teddy.
As your child gets older, try to offer lots of enjoyable experiences with real children and real things so the friend will progressively not be as fascinating or attractive as the real world, and will disappear.