“Do you have an imaginary friend?” Dante (8 years old) asked.
“When I was a little girl, I saw a lot of monkeys once when I was very sick.” I replied, “Do you have an imaginary friend?”
“Yes I do! His name is Alfred!” Dante said an absolute sense of certainty.
“Oh! What does he look like?” I was VERY curious.
“He has a head like a chicken, body like an elephant, and tail like a dragon!” He said with a wide smile.
“This certainly sound like a very interesting creature…” No doubt about that!
“I have an imaginary friend too!” Cedric spoke from the back seat on the other side of the car.
“Oh! Does your friend have a name?” I asked.
“Yes! His name is Ghosty! Although I am not sure if he is actually a boy or a girl. I don’t think he is boy or a girl but I just call him a “him”
“So when do you get to do talk to Ghosty?” I asked.
“He shows up in my pillow when I sleep at night” Cedric said.
“Are you scared of Ghosty at all?” I asked.
“When I first saw Ghosty I was scared, but you said I could talk to him so I said Hi and found that he was not scary at all.”
“When was the last time you saw Ghosty?”
“I haven’t seen him in a while.”
“So do you know how to reach him if you want to talk to them?” I asked.
“It’s easy!” Dante interrupted, “Just think about them and they will appear!”
“That does sound pretty easy to me. Your imaginary friends probably know a lot of things, maybe next time you can try asking them some questions!” I suggested.
After this conversation, they were distracted by an emergency vehicle zooming by the car and the conversation went on a tangent elsewhere, but I can’t help to marvel at how simple it is for children to be connected to the world that cannot be seen by the naked eye. My conversation with my parents about imaginary friends didn’t go well because I was simply told there was no such thing and that I was “making things up”.
While it could be entirely possible for kids to make things up, I now see the importance of allowing children to make things up and allow them to play with their imagination. After all, most of the things we use today in or daily lives were “made up” at one point or another. The keyboard I am using now to write this article was made up some time in the not so distant past as well as the computer screen I am looking at and the wireless internet that works magically without me seeing actual wires or electrical impulses flying through the air. Just because something cannot be seen by others doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
How to Talk to Your Kids About Imaginary Friends
- Ask them about their imaginary friends. Be interested in their imaginary friend, ask them how they first met, what their imaginary friends look like, what they do together, when they hang out etc.
- Find out if their imaginary friend(s) have positive interactions together.
- Include imaginary friends in play time and ask your child to share their conversations with you.
How to Deal with Scary Imaginary Figures
When I was a little girl, I had a very high fever once and I saw all these monkeys chasing after me. I remember crawling up my father’s lap screaming that the monkey’s were going to bite my butt. My dad dismissed my reactions, saying that my reactions were non-sense and there were no monkeys that he could see. Now that I have learned more about the realm of the unseen, I wished he could have done things differently. If your child has a scary encounter with friends / entities she can see but you cannot see, do not dismiss her. Reassure her that you are there protecting her and if your child is able to communicate using language, ask your child to face the scary imaginary figure and ask them to stop whatever it is they are doing. In my case as a little girl, I saw monkeys were chasing me. Then ask your child to pretend that the imaginary figure can talk or communicate in ways she can understand. Have a conversation with the imaginary friend / friends. If the imaginary figures are not friendly, ask your child to tell them to leave with you holding your child and providing security.
In Cedric’s case, he began seeing Ghosty when he was about 3 years old. He would wake up in the middle of the night saying that he was scared of a ghost that was in his pillow. I told him that ghosts may or may not be scary. I asked him to try talking to Ghosty and see if he was really scary. Over time, Cedric befriended Ghosty and they spend many hours in dreamland together.
Fostering Imagination in Children
Children are born with the ability to see, hear, and sense things adults may not be able to do. I remember I saw the monkeys so clearly but with my parents gradual dismissal I have almost lost my ability to see beyond the physical. I don’t have the same kind of vivid visual imagination I used to have as a child. I am pretty sure if this ability was fostered as a child, I could probably put this ability to good use, like seeing if something is wrong with another persons body / energy. Now if I want the same skills I was naturally born with, I would have to relearn them. Which is a bit of a shame.
My kids may not fully understand the importance of retaining the ability to call upon their imaginary friends today, but one day, maybe they will find that Alfred and Ghosty may have many wisdom to share as they go about their lives.