Imaginary Friends: Should You Be Concerned


By: Armin Brott

Young children often have imaginary friends. Sometimes they're human, other times they're animals, like the life-size rabbit in the old Jimmy Stewart movie, "Harvey." Sometimes the imaginary friend is an occasional visitor, stopping by only once every few days. But other times it may be a child's constant companion. Children may talk to their imaginary friends, draw with them, or even read books to them. And plenty of parents have had to set an extra place at the dinner table for the "friend." So are children's imaginary playmates cause for concern? In most cases, the answer is No. Imaginary friends are a pretty normal part of growing up, especially during the toddler years, and they serve several important functions:

While it's generally perfectly fine to humor your child and go along with her claims about the existence of an imaginary friend, there are a few ground rules:

Most kids lose their imaginary friends between their third and fifth birthdays. Sometimes the friends are forgotten, sometimes they're sent on a distant and permanent trip, and other times they "die" in a horrible accident.

A nationally recognized parenting expert, Armin Brott is the author of Father for Life, The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be; The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year, A Dad's Guide to the Toddler Years, Throwaway Dads, and The Single Father: A Dad's Guide to Parenting without a Partner. He has written on parenting and fatherhood for the New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Newsweek and dozens of other periodicals. He also hosts "Positive Parenting", a nationally distributed, weekly talk show, and lives with his family in Oakland, California. Visit Armin at www.mrdad.com.

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