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Is it OK for children to have imaginary friends?

Q: My son is exactly 3 years old. For the past few months he has started talking to an imaginary person. This has started from the time we shifted to a new state. We stayed for 9 months in the earlier state and before that he was in India. Initially, he used to talk for sometime, but nowadays he gets up in the middle of the night and starts talking to his imaginary friend with all the possible expressions for at least 2 hours. I am a little worried about this, as its getting worse. He talks a lot to us also. I am a housewife and spend all my time with him that is why this is worrying me more. We make it a point to take him out every evening so that he does not get bored at home. Since it is very cold, it is not possible to take him to the playground, besides he doesn't meet many of his friends regularly. He goes to school twice a week but cries a lot. He does not want to play with other children of his age and only wants to be at home. By nature he is very active and loves playing with other children when we are around. Do we need to consult a doctor regarding this? Will it change over the course of time?

A:Children are often known to have imaginary friends, but your son has started very early. He is only three years old today. Happy Birthday to him! The frequent moves from India and from one state to another could have upset him and he has invented a friend, who is stable and understanding. There is no harm whatsoever in his having an imaginary playmate. But it is worrying that he does not sleep well. Children do not generally have sleep problems. Some of them will fuss to go to sleep, but to wake up and to keep awake for as long as two hours is certainly unusual. Make sure that he is active during the day and that he eats regular meals and snacks. He should have a warm glass of milk before he goes to sleep, if his dinner was over a couple of hours earlier. Do not let him get excited about a TV programme just before bedtime. Play some soothing music or some chants and let him fall asleep peacefully. Probably he does not understand what the children at his play centre say and is not keen to go. That will change in due course. But if he is very unhappy to go to the play school, you can take him out and send him 6 months later. Each child has his own pace of growing up and his own preferences. It would be easier on him if you paid attention to what he is conveying. There are no simple formulas for anything about children, but what does work is affection, tenderness, consistency in the discipline and a sense of humour. There should be zest and enthusiasm in your handling the child and will catch your mood. Make jokes, play games and try not to be too earnest in being the perfect mother with a perfect child.


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