There is a stigma that only lonely or socially-impaired children play with imaginary friends. Studies have proven this to be untrue. In fact, many children develop imaginary friends. It is a completely normal stage of development. Many psychological benefits are linked to a child creating an imaginary friend.
Imaginary friends can be any entity that your child interacts with on a consistent basis. This can occur in many different ways. This includes completely created personages, fictional characters, or even pretending that stuffed animals are real.
Benefits of Playing with Imaginary Friends
Studies have shown that imaginary friends actually aid in psychological development. Imaginary friends indicate healthy, active imaginations. Additionally, they help to give your child an outlet to express their emotions. Children with imaginary friends tend to get along better with their classmates and also have a fuller, more extensive vocabulary.
The majority of children know that their imaginary friend isn’t real. Having an imaginary friend is no indication of their failure to understand reality. In addition, children who play with imaginary friends tend to be less shy. They laugh and smile more and have an easier time understanding the concept of empathy.
How to React to an Imaginary Friend
You shouldn’t discourage your child from having an imaginary friend and don’t tell them that the imaginary friend doesn’t exist. Children usually grow out of their imaginary friends and often forget that they ever had them. Refrain from criticizing the age at which your child grows out of their imaginary friend. Age limits on imaginary friends are cultural and are not backed up by scientific evidence.
Let your child have control over their imaginary friend. Allow them to tell you what their imaginary friend is doing, rather than imposing any structure on it. Allowing your child to have control will help optimize their overall development.
Imaginary friends are extremely common for children. Encourage your child’s creative development and refrain from criticizing their development of an imaginary friend.