Fantasy friends - normal or a cause for concern?
Many children have them - invisible friends who serve as playmates and grief boxes. It's funny when a child deals with someone who is invisible to others. To your reassurance: If the friendship with the fantasy friend within certain limits, there is no need to worry.
The imagination of children is almost unlimited. Especially in preschool, in the magical phase, nothing is impossible, reality and fantasy are not yet clearly separated. And even if the child somehow realizes that only he himself can see the fantasy friend: he is as real as all other people in a child's environment.
Fantasy friends - companions of child development
A fantasy friend can fulfill many tasks in a toddler's life. He is always there when needed and he is just as the child dreams of becoming a friend. It has someone at the side it can always rely on - an important aspect especially for single children. But a fantasy friend can also be a projection screen. The child transfers to him qualities that he has, but does not dare to live out - perhaps because his parents do not allow him the freedom to do so. If it is rather shy, defensive and reserved, the fantasy friend is probably cheeky and rebellious and does not like anyone. The child tries out how these character traits arrive with the parents - without risking to tease themselves. Fantasy friends are there when the child needs a playmate and no one is at hand. If it is engrossed in the game with the invisible friend, he is just as real as the best friend of the kindergarten.
Ignore or integrate?
But how does the appropriate handling of the additional "family member" look like? Is it better to ignore the fantasy friend or should you accept this phase of the child and make the invisible companion part of the family? You should realize that the fantasy friend is part of the child's personality. If you reject the fantasy friend or ignore him, then at the same time you reject your child - if only in a part of his personality. Aside from that, you're unlikely to make your child "break away" from the fanboy friend. Fight against him, then you only achieve that your child loses confidence and secretly plays with him.
Better for the child development, the self-confidence and the relationship of trust between parent and child is to accept the fantasy friend and maybe even involved. This does not necessarily mean that he gets his own plate at the dining table. It just means that you respect the fact that it exists and that it is important and real to the child.
Fantasy friends promote language development
A study from New Zealand has found that the language development of children who have a fantasy friend is positively influenced. Why this is so, is not fully understood. Elaine Reese, who initiated the study, suspects the reason is that the children have to come up with the experiences with the fantasy friend first. If you can then tell your parents about it, the language skills will be trained. Therefore, it does not hurt if you ask your child for the fantasy friend. On the one hand it feels accepted, on the other hand, the narrative skills are trained and encouraged.
When the fantasy friend becomes a problem
Usually, the fantasy friends disappear at some point by themselves and make room for other interests. If this is not the case in the long run or if the invisible friend takes on an overly dominant role, parents should be aware of it. Maybe your child wants to tell you unconsciously, there may be deeper mental health problems. Excessive engagement with the fantasy friend, which at the same time causes the child to withdraw from the outside world, may, for example, point to autism. But before you panic: Give your child a little more time to get over the fantasy friend, because each child has its own pace of development. Start worrying seriously, then contact the pediatrician. He should know what the next steps are.