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When Your Child's Best Friend is Invisible

Imaginary Friends Normal Part of Development

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So, your child's best friend looks just like her, eats the same foods, is in her same daycare, and shares the same interests. That's great...so far. The only problem is, she's a figment of your child's imagination. Is this a problem?

Relax, say the experts. Having an invisible friend is a normal part of a child's development and can signify a very active imagination. Researchers say that pretend friends can help young children take the perspective of another individual, and paving the way for real-life interactions with kids of all different types of personalities, characters, and behavioral actions. An invisible friend lets a child role-play scenarios and even project his own needs, desires or feelings and thoughts in a safe, non-threatening way.

In addition, imaginary friends also help kids exercise a control over the adult environment that can sometimes place things too far out of their reach or understanding.

Parents or care providers who are uncomfortable about a child having an invisible friend should take comfort in knowing that research has consistently shown that kids know these "friends" are not real and that they will outgrow their need for such companionship with time. Adults can determine whether they want to go along with a child's imaginary friend or not, but they should not be insistent about a child "not pretending to have such a friend" or they could create stress and turmoil for the child.

And while the child may not grow up to be a creative genius, research does support the idea that kids who participate in more creative thinking and play-acting are more likely to be creative as adults.

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