Anastasia has a best friend who enjoys traveling all over the world in a spaceship, never has to eat vegetables, and is always ready for a play date. This friend, “Chelsea,” is everything Anastasia wishes she could be: popular, pretty, and liked by everyone she meets. The only trouble is you will never meet her. Chelsea is an imaginary friend.
No need for concern. Imaginary friends actually come with many real benefits.
First of all, an imaginary friend can help stimulate creativity through pretend play. Pretend play is a way children can practice being adults (think of that old childhood favorite: Cops and Robbers, or playing House). Pretend play allows kids to explore a variety of different roles and to practice being in these roles. An imaginary friend allows your child to engage in pretend play with a companion that has the added benefit of being controlled by your child. For example, whereas a real friend over for a play date might not want to fight dinosaurs, your child’s imaginary friend is up for anything, guaranteed.
Speaking of Cops and Robbers, these same imaginary friends can help kids work on their moral development and learn about the difference between right and wrong. Did Chelsea get blamed for coloring on Big Sister’s homework? While this can be frustrating, it is actually evidence that your little one knows this was a bad choice. Next you can work on accepting personal responsibility!
Finally, imaginary friends can serve as a window into your child’s private thoughts and feelings. Some things are too hard to talk to you about, but being privy to a conversation between your kiddo and their imaginary friend can give you valuable insight into what is going on. Case in point: Chelsea is very afraid of the dentist, and hearing Anastasia discuss this with her is a great way to find out how she feels about her upcoming teeth cleaning.
So if you suspect your child has their own imaginary friend, welcome this person into your home. You may end up pleasantly surprised.