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You smile when your 3 year old tells you that her fake friend’s name is HaHa. “Seriously!” Your mother laughs.
Having no brothers or sisters to play with, people often assume that only children like HaHa’s creator have more imaginary friends than children with siblings. This myth, which was launched in 1896 by the psychologist G. Stanley Hall and long debunked, continues to be perpetuated.
Recently, Japanese researchers Yusuke Moriguchi and Naoya Todo found that children with imaginary companions are more likely to be firstborn. My brother, for example the firstborn in our family, had George. However, the firstborn finding, like the only child myth, appears questionable in light of the responses to my most recent request to learn more about imaginary friends.
Caroline from the mountains, the imaginary friend of a 5-year-old, “came down from the mountains to play with my daughter in a neighbour’s tree house across the street,” her mother recalls. “Caroline from the mountains also played with her and her dolls at home. They had tea parties that lasted for hours with lots of chatter. “This child, the youngest of eleven, had many real playmates in the house.
Laurie Ann, mother of four, says three of her children had imaginary companions. A daughter’s imaginary friend had green skin and purple hair and was named Goosella. Goosella would swing from chandeliers. “My daughter made people move because she said they were going to sit on Goosella.
“My older son had an imaginary boyfriend, a bow tie, which he oddly called Fido,” adds Laurie Ann. “Fido would speak to him and we had to be careful not to step on Fido. My other daughter had an imaginary dragon friend named Kiki. She asked us to put a plate for Kiki. She also pushed Kiki into a stroller. I think Kiki had rainbow colors. “
A sign of growing imagination
Imagine friends, no matter what their “owner” was born in, be it flies, kites or humans, they are diverse and can worry or even alert parents … especially if they don’t understand why or when or when Fido or George, HaHa or Goosella arrived. They seem to appear out of nowhere. From around 2 1/2 to 3 years of age and up to around 7 or 8 years of age, you may find one or two imaginary companions popping up. “My Anita had one. It was the cutest thing. His name was Diggy and she had conversations with him when she was between 2 and 4 years old. Then Diggy brought more friends with him. Alan and Janie came in. “
For children, pretend friends are fun and provide hours of entertainment. Josh, now a teenager, reports that he had 18 supposed friends, all named Little Baby Josh, all four inches tall. “They were clones of me, followed me everywhere, and loved to dance. I was their leader. ”
According to Marjorie Taylor, professor of psychology at the University of Oregon who wrote the final findings on Imaginary Companions, about 65 percent of young children have them, and their arrival often coincides with the development of children’s imaginations.
In a conversation with Nursery World, Dr. Karen Majors, an educational psychologist at the Institute of Education at University College London: “It is time to eliminate the feeling that these children are in the minority or have some sort of mental health problem.” pretending that playing is helping them, using their imaginations to explore things that are important to them, or to help themselves feel better about something, all of which are good for their cognitive, emotional levels and social development. “
Imaginary companions serve many purposes
Much research over the past few decades explains that fake friends help young children learn about their surroundings, get along with others, and solve problems. Fictional friends can help a child make a life change such as a family move, the birth of a sibling, a divorce, or making new friends. Imaginary friends are useful for dealing with uncomfortable situations, as a starting point for feelings they cannot understand or cannot express, or as an excuse for bad or destructive behavior. Willa’s son had an imaginary companion named Oakick. “Every time my son didn’t want to do anything or did something he shouldn’t do, he blamed Oakick!”
Johnny Harrison’s creator Ted, neither a firstborn nor an only child and now in his fifties, says Johnny Harrison was no different from Oakick. “I blamed Johnny Harrison, a rag doll, for everything. If my mother yelled at me, it was always Johnny’s fault. I slept with him too. As I got older, he finally had to be laid to rest. I’m not sure where he went. ”
Children who pretend to be friends can be invisible, imaginative creations based on real people or associated with objects like stuffed animals, toys, or dolls like Johnny Harrison. Elaborate explanations from fantasy friends may be disarming to the parents, but they are generally a sign of a growing and fertile imagination. Lily, a 4-year-old and firstborn at the time, imagined an entire fictional family in Utah, her mother says. “It was a family of five. I don’t remember their names, but in all honesty I wondered a little if she was born again. If you’d sat next to us in a restaurant, you’d have thought she was adopted and the people of Utah were her real family. We live in Chicago. She kept chatting about what each person in her pretend family was doing. One of my husband’s employees once sent her a huge gift box with the return address “Your Utah Family”. That was how convincing my daughter was and how real and detailed she portrayed her. “
Lasting memories of fake friends
Although you may be surprised, at a loss, or concerned when your child tells you to slow down, wait for Phyllis to catch up, take the twins on a family vacation, or hear your son or daughter chatting or a “buddy “Order an imaginary friend is likely to be part of the family history – to warm up and delight over decades as Ted reminds us of his time with Johnny Harrison:” The amusing thing is that my brother and sister raised him as The Years passed and we always had a good laugh. ”
In retrospect, most parents see the humor and the harmlessness of the supposed companions of their children. Her 4-year-old urged his mother, Kirsten, from the back seat every time they got into the car, to strap onto Bobby, who, for reasons unknown, was old enough to be in the front seat. He didn’t insist on food for Bobby like my brother did on George, but he made sure that Bobby sat next to him at the dining table. Bobby accompanied her son on overnight stays with friends when he was a few years older.
Kirsten tried to analyze Bobby: “Maybe my son got tired of two older sisters showing him around and wanted a brother, called him Bobby and made him part of the family. His sisters remember when Bobby began to die. They asked, “Where’s Bobby?” and her son would say in a matter-of-fact tone, ‘Bobby has just left.’ “
Sometimes siblings or friends share imaginary companions who survive to this day. Sisters Laura and Jackie had Miss Nancy when they were around 4 and 6 years old. As adults, her memories of Miss Nancy are sharp. Laura remembers her as the third character during her season: “Miss Nancy was a smart, sassy professional woman who spent a lot of time on the phone ordering people around. Miss Nancy was a strong polyester saleswoman, although I don’t think we knew what polyester was other than what we learned from television commercials. Sometimes we would put Windex or something in a spray bottle and think it was polyester and wash the windows.
“Miss Nancy was my mother’s anthesis, who was a home-stayed mother who was quite meek. In our minds, her husband, Mr. Nancy, was always in trouble, a sucker, and not at all like our father. Maybe we were trying to find out something in our domestic life.
“I remember Miss Nancy making calls and making decisions. She was an ass. Maybe imaginary friends are who you want to be. I don’t know, but she’s still with us. She spoke with a distinct accent in the Midwest, ”says Laura. “The funniest thing is my sister and I talk like that from time to time. When our children hear us, they roll their eyes and say, ‘You’re talking to Miss Nancy again.'”
The breadth of children’s creativity seems far more fascinating – and telling – than their position in the spectrum of the birth order. Dr. Taylor, who has studied children’s imaginary friends for more than 30 years, said, “I am constantly entertained by what children can come up with.”
Any imaginary friends in your house? Please share your or your children’s stories in the comments section.
Copyright @ 2020 by Susan Newman