I miss our imaginary friends
Kids find comfort in having imaginary friends, says Cath Jenkin.
A friend of mine tells me her son’s discovered his very own imaginary friend. This imaginary friend is called Bobby and does not enjoy carrots, or being left behind when they go to the shops. So, my friend serves a second dinner plate for her son’s friend, without carrots, and always makes sure that Bobby gets in the car safely.

I commend her, on accommodating her son’s imagination. We lived through the “imaginary friends years”, with a little more enthusiasm than is probably necessary but – I will confess – I remember my imaginary friends from childhood too, so when my daughter revealed she had two – I indulged it, all the way.

So much so, that her two imaginary friends stayed “with us” for years. I noticed the other day that she hadn’t mentioned her friends in a while. J and K (not their ‘real names’!) accompanied us almost everywhere for a while – to the shops, to the bath, to bedtime and to school(Kudos to daycare teachers who accommodate extra, but invisible, children in their classrooms some days…). I’ve had long and complexconversations with people who are “not there” at the dinner table. Mostly just after I’ve had to dish up dinner for them, and remind them that there is no dessert if the broccoli remains untouched.

Children develop imaginary friends for a number of reasons – whether it be psychological, an extension of the child’s personality, or even a little ethereal. The “appearance” of imaginary friends highlights a child’s creative and active imagination, at the very least. Lawrence Kutnersaid:

“Imaginary companions are an integral part of many children’s lives. They provide comfort in times of stress, companionship when they’re lonely, someone to boss around when they feel powerless, and someone to blame for the broken lamp in the living room. Most important, an imaginary companion is a tool young children use to help them make sense of the adult world”

For me, I found it a comfort that our two imaginary friends stuck around for as long as they did. They helped us through some lonely nights, and I found them relatively well-behaved mealtime companions. J and K were there when we faced some nasty life tumbles, and they were there when we searching for fairies in the garden. By the way, they were better fairy-finders than I am.

The truth? The truth about our family’s imaginary friends is that I miss them. In the hurly-burly demands of big school and growing up, I think they’ve receded into the stories we tell about our family, and aren’t included in the conversation anymore. I know I don’t have to dish dinner up for them anymore, but I miss them I would a family member who has moved abroad.

Have your kids ever had imaginery friends?

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