Healthy Kids    

What should parents do about imaginary playmates?



Imaginary friends are not only normal, but also can help the child grow and develop.

 

Imaginary friends are not only normal, but also can help the child grow and develop. Parents should relax and not be concerned, but also not overindulge in the child’s fantasy. Don’t discourage or belittle the relationship; don’t challenge it outright and demand that the child give up the fantasy. However, you should in a subtle way let the child know that you are aware the playmate is make believe.

Don’t let the child blame indiscretions on the imaginary playmate to avoid responsibility. As long as this imagined friend is not your child’s only friend, there is no cause for alarm. When a 4-year-old sees Santa in the mall he is excited as he believes this is for sure the real Santa, while an 8-year-old knows it’s someone in a Santa suit. Concrete thinking takes the place of fantasy usually by the time your child enters school.

Rarely does the child need your or professional help to dismantle and leave behind this vestige of childhood. Like the “binky” and the “blankie,” the imaginary playmate will be a fuzzy memory to reminisce and laugh about during family gatherings in the future.


Paul Schwartz, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology and Education at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh. He is available for group speaking engagements. Email him at editor@excitingread.com.