Reed (3) has lots and lots of friends. The majority of them are imaginary ¦sort of. They are real friends from school but he plays with them at home, they eat dinner with us every meal, bathe in the bathtubs and even cause trouble. He can talk about them all the livelong day.
He even has a girlfriend “ her name is Chick. Yes, that is her name and she hangs out with us quite a bit.
Quite the imagination my boy has. This kind of ties into a post I wrote recently on kids and split-personalities.
Here is a conversation we had last night..
Reed: NeeNee, Papa, my friends are coming to your house tomorrow
NeeNee: Oh really? What are you going to do?
Reed: We are going to play baseball and eat in your kitchen. My friends mommies and daddies are going bring them. They will be here at 2. They are going to spend the night. They will all sleep with my mommy but Vinny will stay in Jace's room.
NeeNee: Oh, okay. What do you and your friends want to eat?
Reed: hot dogs and carrots and gatorade.
That was a very small snippet of the conversation, but he had everything planned out, from what toys they would play with, their arrival time and when they were going home. My dad will dig deeper and the two of them will carry on one of these conversations for a very long time. I keep trying to remind myself to record one but usually once we are in the moment, I am so mesmerized by his details.
Crime and Punishment
If he falls down, then he responds with something like, my friend pushed me down, but it was an accident. Mommy please don't be sad at him. He didn't mean to or mommy, my friend pushed me down. He needs to go to time-out and then I ™ll put his friend in time out with the timer on until it's time to get up.
Now I know some people do not like the imaginary friends and some even find it disturbing or as one relative told me creepy .
Understanding Imaginary Friends
I for one am not the least worried or bothered by it. Kids with imaginary friends have an active imagination, a stronger vocabulary and a great capacity for independent play. I of course encourage interaction with real friends and he does great with other kids. I don't encourage or make fun of his imaginary friends, instead I allow him to play with them freely and if he wants them to sit at the table with us, then I oblige. I don't offer up an entire conversation with Owen Michael but if Reed tells me Owen needs help with something or is talking to me, then again I oblige. You would never want to make fun of or mock them for using their imagination “ that will only increase insecurity and they are clearly showing signs of independence, creativity and confidence. Allow them to carry this phase out and form their own identities.
Another way to look at this is as a teaching opportunity. If your child's friend makes a mess or pushes or trips someone, then reinforce the rules and discuss it with your child. While it may appear they are just trying to get out of trouble, it will likely be a better time to explain to them, because they are more likely to listen to you since the spotlight is on said friend. I have used this technique many times as a teaching opportunity and will often see him discussing it with his friend afterword.
As children mature and develop and gain the social, cognitive, and emotional skills needed they will soon realize or accept these friends are just pretend. Until then, help your child grow, learn and explore the world around them. Take a note and check back in 15 years, I bet you will have quite a talented, creative, smart young adult on your hands and you can thank Owen Michael for that.