An Imaginary Friend In Need Is An Imaginary Friend Indeed

I was dead certain that it was just my daughter and me in the house that one summer day in 2010 when I started to hear my daughter talking to someone in her bedroom.  I was pumped up and ready to put my feeble martial arts skills to use as the “intruder” alarm went off inside my head.  When I peered through her door, I found her talking to Gigi.

Gigi, apparently, was her imaginary friend.  I thought it was quite amusing that my daughter conjured up this character whom she immediately bonded with, but a tiny part of me- the paranoid part- was slightly bothered.  I started questioning the boundaries of normalcy.  Is it common for kids to have imaginary friends?  Was my daughter manifesting symptoms of an underlying psychological problem?  Is this what children of divorced parents inevitably go through?

Turns out, having pretend friends is common among preschoolers.  The imaginary friend is sometimes a lifelike doll which the kid plays with, or someone invisible.  A spokesperson from the Canadian Pediatric Society says that this is a routine part of childhood development.  It shouldn’t be a cause for concern.  Another study reports that by age 7, about 65% of kids have had an imaginary friend.

Reasons for having imaginary friends vary.  For some kids, it’s because they simply want to do imaginative play.  For others, it’s because they’re bored or lonely.  This is especially true for children with no brothers or sisters to play with.  Sometimes, having an imaginary friend acts as a self-soothing tool during a big life change, such as moving to a new home.  Somehow this becomes a way for the kid to practice his social skills in an environment which he has control over.

So the next time you see your kid talking to thin air, don’t hit the panic button just yet.  We just have to allow our kids to be who they are as they tap into their imagination.