Should I Worry About My Child’s Imaginary Friend?

One night you are leaving to take your 4 year old to the store and as the door closes, you hear your four year old scream, “Wait! Don’t close the door on Emily!” You do not see anyone else close to you and as you look into your daughters eyes, you realize for the first time that she has an imaginary friend. You think to yourself, “Why does my daughter have an imaginary friend? What should I do about it?”

Do not worry; having an imaginary friend can be a normal part of childhood development. It does not mean that your child is lonely, upset, or has problems with peers.

Many children between early childhood and adolescence have had at least one imaginary friend in their life. Imaginary friends come in all shapes and sizes. They can be an animal, a fantasy creature or another human. Your child will be able to tell you every detail about her friend. Having an imaginary friend is a child’s natural creative way to play out different experiences that she has had in her life.

Benefits of Imaginary Friends:

  • Imaginary friends can help kids develop communication and interpersonal skills.
  • They can help children express creativity.
  • Imaginary friends can help children solve issues that they may not yet feel completely comfortable dealing with.
  • Many children who have imaginary friends tend to be less shy, more creative and are better at perspective taking with others.

When your child has an imaginary friend, it is important for you to respond positively to your child and support them in having this friend. Try interacting with your child’s imaginary friend. It may give you some insight into what’s on your child’s mind. Appreciate your child’s independence and innovation. And like all things in our children’s lives, imaginary friends only last a little while.