A 46 month old child has a very vivid and active imagination: he loves to make up stories and pretend. Your preschooler may tell you that are zebras in the garden or that he went to the moon. Don’t be surprised when he blames the spilled milk in the dining room on his imaginary friend!
Your Child’s Development
Many parents worry unnecessarily when their child conjures up an imaginary friend. If your child has an imaginary friend, don’t worry. It is a normal part of a child’s development. Studies show that two-thirds of all children will have an imaginary friend some time during their preschool years. Studies also disprove the stereotypical view that a child who has a make-believe friend is an‘only child’ or the firstborn child. Additionally, an imaginary friend does not necessarily mean that a child is lonely or psychologically distressed.
There are several reasons that a child may have an imaginary friend. Sometimes it is because the child is lonely and is seeking companionship. A child may need an imaginary friend to help them get through a transition or a traumatic experience. Many times, a child develops an imaginary friend simply because they want a companion who will be accepting of everything they say or think. An imaginary friend will always be positive and will never criticise. An imaginary friend will always want to play with your child and will never take his toys. An imaginary friend allows a child to be able to have control over their surroundings.
Having an imaginary friend can have several positive effects on a child’s development. Since your child’s friend always listens to him, it helps to boost his child’s self esteem. In fact, child psychologists believe that children who have imaginary friends are less shy and better at seeing things from another’s perspective.
There’s another positive aspect of your child’s imaginary friendship. When your child plays with his imaginary friend, he is practicing communication skills, sharing, and manners. A child can also express their negative emotions to an imaginary friend whereas they cannot comfortably express these emotions to a sibling or a parent. It’s important that a child know how to deal with negative emotions. Being able to express these emotions teaches a child to cope with their feelings.
It’s recommended that you should not ask your child about his imaginary friend unless he offers to tell you about him. If your child does tell you about his imaginary friend, be supportive and accepting. However, you should not overdo it by pretending to talk or play with his friend, or set an extra plate at the dinner table. At the same time, you should not be critical or grill your child about having an imaginary friend. You don’t want to make him feel bad about his friend. Just accept that your child has a new friend and let him enjoy the companionship. Sometime around the age of 5, children start to have a better grasp on reality. It’s usually around this time that a child will give up their imaginary friend.