Parenting: Imaginary Friends

September 14, 2010

From what Emma tells me, Jesamia is also a three-year-old girl, who likes the same food and activities as Emma. So, as parents, should we be concerned? Experts say no, and that having imaginary friends can actually be a good thing.

According psychologist, Dr. Evan Kidd at Melbourne's La Trobe University, children with imaginary friends are better at learning to communicate than other children because they have a lot of practice at inventing interactions with their friends, which helps them improve their conversational skills.

Dr. Kidd explored the hidden world of imaginary companions in a study, which involved 44 children, 22 of which had imaginary friends in an attempt to understand the benefits. The study found that the 22 children who had imaginary friends were better able to get their point across than were children of the same age who did not have an imaginary friend.

Dr. Kidd says these children are in charge of both sides of the conversation so have a lot of practice at inventing interactions between their imaginary friends and themselves and this is what facilitates the development of their conversational skills. The researchers also discovered that children with an invisible friend or personified toy had a better social understanding, were generally first born or only children and were very creative.

In addition, Dr. Kidd says the phenomenon of the imaginary friend is really misunderstood and people think it is rare and a concern but past studies have shown that around 65-percent of children aged between three and nine, had imaginary friends and the characters, rather than due to some internal malaise, appear to be an essential component of normal development.

So, we may never get to meet Emma's "Jesamia," but we can be thankful she is helping our daughter's creative development.

Happy Parenting!

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