Friday, September 30, 2016

Imaginary Friends are Nothing to Worry About

Childhood is a golden time in all of our lives. We saw everything through rose-colored lenses, and craved creativity while living in the normal world. As many are familiar, this need for fun and excitement will sprout a brand new idea in their minds: imaginary friends.

Maybe you're a parent and have a child who sometimes talks and plays with their invisible friend. Perhaps this concerns you, and you wonder if this is means that they are lonely or has a social disability. This seems logical with evidence from those baby books from the child's younger years, but there is no research that supports these ideas, and in fact, it's just the opposite. 

According to Marjorie Taylor, psychologist at the University of Oregon and author of Imaginary Friends and the Children Who Create Them, having a relationship with someone who your child creates can actually lead to some emotional and intellectual benefits. Taylor researched children with and without imaginary friends, studying their behavior. "In a lot of ways they're very similar, but when we do find differences, they tend to show an advantage for kids who have imaginary friends."

Communication becomes more developed in children with invisible friends, as they have the opportunity to control both sides of a conversation. Since there are no rules in their imaginary lands, children can thoroughly explore communal skills without borders. This doesn't mean that they will forget about rules and manners, in fact, most children will tell off their imaginary friend if they do something rude - a sign of understanding the correct thing to do.

In addition to it not being a sign of stress or disability, imaginary friends are also incredibly common. Taylor find that 37 percent of children admit they had - or currently have - imaginary friends at the age of seven. In a group  of 86 children with imaginary friends, 77% eagerly admitted they had one, and they almost always know they're not real. Only one of the children in that large group was sure their friend was real.

Here at Hillwood, a few little girls were excited to talk about their imaginary friends. 

Parents with imaginary family members: there's absolutely nothing to worry about. It's best for your child in the long term to encourage this phenomenon and include their mindful habits in your day-to-day life to assist cognitive skills. Although it's great to have an imaginary friend, you shouldn't force one if your child doesn't invent one. Kids can get similar benefits by going to school and making real friends.

Heathrow Airport in Hillingdon, London is one of few public areas that actively encourages imaginary friends. This video narrated by Chris O'Dowd displays Heathrow's recently included business habits.

For more reading about imaginary friends, you can read some stories from the public. This one from Buzzfeed is on the creepier side, and this one from the Listener is a bit funnier.

In conclusion, imaginary friends are no taboo, and if your child has created one, simply allow their minds to run wild.

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