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What is an Imaginary Friend? Facts About Imaginary Friend


Imaginary friends are frequently seen especially in 3-4 years of childhood. With the beginning of the school period, imaginary friends also gradually decrease and disappear.

Research shows that having an imaginary friend is perfectly normal. In one study, nearly two-thirds of children had at least one imaginary friend. It has been found that children with imaginary friends have better language development.

According to research, imaginary friends support children's cognitive development. It is known that theory of mind develops better in those who have imaginary friends in early childhood (Taylor and Carlson 1997). It is thought that these children with imaginary friends try to understand other people's minds through the game they play with their imaginary friends.

The imaginary friend creates an environment for recognizing and exploring social roles. Imaginary friends help children better understand and control the world and cope with their fears. The imaginary friend is an intermediary between the child and the outside world. It enables them to understand the world and contributes to their social and emotional development. The imaginary friend can be the person the child likes, a cartoon character, or a person who exists in the dream world. Having imaginary friends in boys and girls does not show any gender difference. In other words, the ratio of imaginary friends can be seen equally in both genders. Some children have imaginary friends, while some children have unseen imaginary friends.

Children can be the mother or teacher of their imaginary friends. This situation can give clues about the existing relations between the people who play the role in the game.

An increase in the frequency of games played with imaginary friends can be observed during difficult times in the family, when life events such as separation of parents, death in the family, moving, health problems occur. In this case, the child transfers the situations in his inner world to the outside world through games. For this reason, they can cope with the situations they have experienced in difficult times more easily.

Families often greet their child's imaginary friend with anxiety. But the imaginary friend is part of the child's healthy development. As long as the child is not detached from the outside world, there is nothing to worry about.

There is a misconception that children with imaginary friends are lonely, unfriended children. Social children can also have imaginary friends.

Studies have concluded that the main function of creating an imaginary friend is to help the child cope with issues involving mastery and competence. Thus, these studies suggest that the imaginary friend may psychologically help the child overcome or compensate for feelings of inadequacy.

What Are the Benefits of an Imaginary Friend?

  • It develops the child's creativity and imagination.
  • Develops language skills and vocabulary.
  • It contributes to the child in gains such as making decisions, taking responsibility, learning the cause and effect relationship.
  • It helps him cope with his emotions.
  • It is a guide for parents to understand the child's feelings. Troubles
  • It supports the child to go on the path of recovery by transferring it to the game.
  • They serve as safe places for children to explore different behaviors and roles.
  • The imaginary friend teaches the child to cope with the stress factors in his life, helps him understand his inner world, and helps him overcome his fears.
  • They are prone to cooperation.
  • It supports cognitive development.
  • Empathy increases.
  • It helps in using gestures and facial expressions.
  • It can improve problem solving skills.
  • It is known that children easily terminate imaginary relationships after they gain emotion regulation and social skills in their relationships with their imaginary friends.
  • Prepares himself for social skills.
  • During imaginary games, children develop skills such as expressing themselves and their wishes or dislikes, protecting their rights, and acting.
  • It contributes to the ability to express oneself.

What Can Parents Do?

  • Do not ignore your child's imaginary friend. Mom and dad should welcome the imaginary friend without exaggeration.
  • You must respect the child's imaginary friend.
  • Don't try to make you believe your imaginary friend is gone. Don't be teased and don't judge.
  • Observe in which situations the imaginary friend appears.
  • There should not be a ban on playing games with an imaginary friend.
  • The child should be prevented from placing the responsibility on his imaginary friend for every bad behavior he/she does. If he says what he does as if his imaginary friend did it, he should be helped to understand the difference between reality and fantasy by making him take responsibility. In this case, parents should approach calmly and in a balanced way. For the child, the border between the real and the imaginary will become clear over time.
  • When the child tells something about his imaginary friend, he should rest very well. By telling about his imaginary friend, the child may be giving you information about his world and the issues he has difficulty with. For example, if the child's imaginary friend is afraid of heights, this indicates the probability that the child actually has a fear of heights.
  • Do not involve the imaginary friend in games unless your child tells you to.
  • Replay games between the child and the imaginary friend should be well observed.
  • The only friend of the child should not be allowed to be his imaginary friend, the child should be provided in social environments.

When is an imaginary friend a problem?

  • If the child's imaginary friend continues after 7 years of age,
  • If your child does not exhibit social behaviors appropriate for his age and developmental level,
  • If it arose after a traumatic experience,
  • If they do not communicate socially with their peers,
  • If the situation of spending time with his imaginary friend has started to become excessive and negatively affect his routine life,
  • If the child has more imaginary friends than real friends,
  • If he says that he actually heard and saw them, even in his old age,
  • If the child only spends time with his/her imaginary friend, has no friends, exhibits social avoidance behaviors,
  • If he avoids interacting with other children and prefers his imaginary friend rather than doing things in the real world, it would be useful to seek professional support.

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