He is their spiritual twin and their secret-keeper. Your child shares their sadness with him and tells him stories. In him, they find consolation and encouragement in times of trial.
Your child’s imaginary friend is not necessarily a sign of illness, unless it reflects a feeling of loneliness or an inclination towards isolation. How, then, should it be dealt with?
- Know that, within a specific framework, the imaginary friend is a healthy phenomenon that will not prevent your child from forming friendships with children their age at the nursery or school, and that it will usually stop by the time they turn six.
- It goes without saying that by weaving this ‘friend’ into their imagination, your child is looking for a companion they have not found or for a missing sense of security. If they talk about him in front of you and their father, they are sending you a message that they do not want to reveal directly.
- Whether your child speaks to you about their imaginary companion—usually without giving him a specific name—or hide him and talk to him in secret, you must deal with the problem very naturally, without placing any undo emphasis on it.
- The child should not be allowed to blame all their shortcomings and mistakes on this unreal friend. In such a case, you might say to them, for example, “Okay, he’s really there in your head, but right now, I’m talking to you”.
- It is always advisable to listen to what your child is trying to say through this imaginary friend. If it is a reflection of their feelings of loneliness, it is up to you to help them form real friendships that reinforce their ability to live in harmony with others.
- If it is a reflection of their fear of the outside, “real” world, you must make sure that the atmosphere at home helps ease their worries.
- No matter what, this imaginary friendship must not continue after your child turns six, especially if it is accompanied by an absence of real friends in their world. In this case, you should consult a specialist.