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Parents could be initially worried when their child starts talking about an imaginary friend. Popular media has made the concept relatively frightening; there is a connotation that children with these types of friends later on develop to be mentally unstable adults. Mental health practitioners disagree with this misconception. Several medical studies have concluded that children having imaginary friends iscompletely normal.
Children, particularly those without siblings, need to explore their imagination and fantasies. Each child manifests these thoughts differently. More introverted and creative children tend to create another friend; someone who is close to their age and with whom they feel a special bond. The friend need not even be human. Some children befriend their toys or make a completely fictional character.
Parents do not have to actively encourage the behavior but must learn to adapt to their child’s new friend. It has been shown to be detrimental when a child is punished, even with negative language, for having an imaginary friend. Name-calling or incessant teasing may cause the child to withdraw within himself or herself. The friend should then be treated as with respect and acknowledgment, or as a regular human being.
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If parents are particularly worried, they may want to have their child hang out with other children their age. The socialization could help the child move on from the imaginary friend, although this is not automatic. Eventually the child will grow out of this phase, and begin to engage in more interpersonal relationships. It must be noted though that should a child continue speaking and being friends with something imaginary past the age of eight, he or she should be looked at by a professional for further assessment.