Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Child's Imaginary Friend Has Mother Concerned

Dear Tazi:

My four year old daughter "Heidi" has had an imaginary friend for longer than I can remember. I recall one day, before she could even talk, she was sitting by herself laughing at nothing. Soon after she started to walk, she would pretend to be holding hands with someone; and after she started to talk she would tell me of her friend "Uggie". Uggie has been a part of my life ever since.

My concern is that, at four years old, she seems a bit old to have an imaginary friend. I am afraid this will stunt her emotional growth, cause issues with her social development, and cause other children to make fun of her. My Uncle is a Child Psychologist, and he says Heidi's behavior is perfectly natural and that it will run its course, but I am not so sure; Heidi is pretty attached to Uggie. I am afraid that Uggie might be here to stay if I don't do something about him soon. What do you say, Tazi-Kat?

No Friend Of Uggie

Dear No Friend Of Uggie:

You have been given the professional opinion of a trained medical specialist, yet you refuse to accept it. This sounds to me like it is also an issue of embarrassment of - or even jealousy towards - your daughter's "imaginary" friend as much as it is concern for her emotional and social development - and I put the word imaginary in quotes because to Heidi, her friend is every bit as real as you or me.

Children seek out imaginary friends for the same reasons they carry around a favorite blanket or toy dolly: it is a sense of security in the familiar. You say your daughter has been friends with Uggie since infancy. What goes on in the minds of the pre-verbal is anybody's guess, and a subject that medical researchers have studied for years. It is known that a child's cognitive development develops before their verbal skills, so it is quite possible that your daughter dreamed up Uggie one day, and decided to keep him around because he made her laugh.

And seriously...are grown-ups any less guilty?

Since Heidi is old enough to speak in full sentences and express herself, why not ask her what makes Uggie such a good friend? In discussing Uggie's positive qualities with her, you can find out much about your own little girl, especially things of importance such as what she looks for in a friend and what kind of friend she is to others. If something is bothering your daughter - or if someone is hurting her - she may express this in terms of something happening to Uggie. I suggest that you use Uggie's existence in a positive way, as a way to share a special experience with your daughter. The day will come that Heidi outgrows Uggie, and he will disappear from your lives, but the bond he can help create will build a special kind of trust between you and your daughter.

Most children outgrow imaginary friends by the time they start a full school day, which in Heidi's case is only a year or two away. Be patient, and trust your Uncle's wisdom. He is, after all, the professional!


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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