Imaginary Friends Are Great for Kids -- and Adults, Too

shadows kidsDon't you hate it when you have a sudden realization about your childhood that makes you sad ... and then you realize your own sad history is repeating in the lives of your children? Sigh. I had one of those double whammy moments-of-sad earlier today.

See, I was reading something about how imaginary friends are a normal, healthy part of a child's development when it dawned on me ...

I never had an imaginary friend growing up.

Hey ... everybody's supposed to have an imaginary friend at some point or another. How come I never got one?

Then came stage two of my sudden realization: Hey, neither one of my kids has ever had an imaginary friend either! No mischievous make-believe alter egos, no friendly purple tigers or talking blue monkeys or otherwise fanciful fairy tale companions.

What's wrong with us?! Perhaps I unwittingly passed some genetic imagination disorder along to my innocent children ...

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Oh well, add that to this laundry list of inherited character flaws they'll hate me for someday. Sigh.

The thing is, the concept of imaginary friends has always fascinated me. As a little kid, I went through a brief phase of trying to have a pretend pal, but it never took ... I would always forget her name or where she was sitting or that she "existed" at all. (Kind of like what would happen whenever I tried to get attached to a teddy bear or other lovey-type stuffed thing ... which is that I would end up tossing it out of bed in the middle of the night in annoyance.)

But I still like the idea, and I still kind of wish my kids got to experience this classic childhood phase. They're 6 and 10 years old now; that window of opportunity is definitely closed.

Or is it? Apparently one of the many functions imaginary friends serve is to "shield against fear" (as in, Hey, I know that monster under the bed isn't gonna bother me now that Larry the T-Rex is my main man!). Kind of like how adults sometimes create alter egos we can slip into when we need a little extra confidence, or mojo, or whatever (as in, Beyonce's self-created Sasha Fierce persona).

So maybe it's not too late for me or my kids to figure out this whole imagination thing to our advantage.

What do you think? Did you have an imaginary friend? Does your toddler?

 

Image via jason shultz/Flickr

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