• Should I be worried about my preschooler's imaginary friend?

    Three childhood experts share why preschoolers come up with imaginary friends and what parents can do to deal with this situation.
    by SmartParenting Staff .
  • Isabel Saplala,family life and child development and education specialist, Miriam College:

    Having an imaginary friend is a child’s creative way of coping with loneliness. 
    Imaginary friends help kids express thoughts and feelings they may have about upsetting situations. 
    Parents shouldn’t feel alarmed. They should see imaginary friends as a reminder to listen to their children’s thoughts and feelings. Get your child to tell you about what her imaginary pal is like. Then provide your child with the emotional and social support she needs. 

    Den Delos Santos, preschool teacher, UP-CDC; graduate student, Special Education, University of the Philippines, Diliman:

    It’s fairly normal for kids, especially those around 3 years old, to create imaginary friends to cope with fear, loneliness, and anxiety. 
    Imaginary friends make wonderful best friends in the absence of “real” friends.
    Sharing embarrassing moments is easier to do with imaginary friends. Observe your child as she plays with her “friend.” 

    A study at Case Western Reserve University in the U.S. shows that children who have imaginary friends tend to be bright, imaginative, more cooperative, resourceful, adept at problem solving, independent, and cheerful compared to kids who didn’t have imaginary friends. 
    In fact, parents should look for day care or preschool programs that allow time for imaginative play so children can interact with pretend figures.  

    Click here to read more advice from childhood experts.


    Read on for more advice from childhood experts.

    Teena Valdes-Panga, preschool teacher, Community of Learners School for Children; mom to Caloy, Celina, Cocoy and Carizze:

    Preschoolers are an imaginative lot. For them, invisible friends can be as real as visible family members. In most cases, having a made-up friend is no cause for concern. In early childhood years, having one can serve many purposes:
    The child learns right and wrong. Children sometimes find it difficult to stop themselves from doing deeds they know are wrong. Blaming the imaginary friend for using mommy’s pens without permission, for example, is often a sign that your child understands what she is supposed to do but is not quite ready to assume complete responsibility for her actions. Don’t allow your child to shift responsibility to her “friend” for wrongdoings, however.

    Kids learn about roles and relationship.  Dramatic play or role-playing also takes a major role in the socio-emotional development of every child.

    Kids learn to take control.  Children are always looking for ways to gain control or become the person in charge. Having an imaginary pal is their way to manage their fears or feeling of helplessness.
    To wean her from her imaginary friend—especially when you feel things are getting out of hand—consider doing these activities: read books with her, share stories about your day, relish her artworks, play music together, and encourage bonding trips with the family.

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    Don’t worry. Most children lose their imaginary friends by age 6 or 7, when they naturally grow an understanding of the difference between reality and fantasy.
    Having an imaginary friend is a child’s creative way of coping with loneliness. 
    Imaginary friends help kids express thoughts and feelings they may have about upsetting situations. Parents shouldn’t feel alarmed. They should see imaginary friends as a reminder to listen to their children’s thoughts and feelings.

    Get your child to tell you about what her imaginary pal is like. Then provide your child with the emotional and social support she needs. 

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