Besides our 2 children, we are also the hosts of Laura’s 6 imaginary friends: Pinky, Unicorn, Lisa, Emily Elizabeth (from Clifford), Special Agent Oso (from the Disney Channel show), and Sarah. Here is how Laura describes the 3 most long-standing and constant of her friends:
Pinky is a pig. She eats garbage from the trashcan and makes a big mess. I laugh at her because she always has a trash mustache. She knows lots of things because she is very smart.
Lisa is a little girl. She loves to go outside, run, and get fresh air. She has the best talent ever. It is doing chores. She always wears a dress that is purple with hearts, polka-dots, and short sleeves.
Unicorn is a unicorn from a fairy tale book. She has a talent, too – cleaning up her room. Unicorn has a horn on her forehead. Unicorns are always white, you know. She eats leaves. Why do unicorns eat leaves? What do real unicorns really look like? I want to see real unicorns come to life.
Pinky first appeared when Laura was 3 years old, and we were concerned. We researched and found that a surprising 65% of children may have imaginary friends. As more imaginary friends have arrived, our tactics have remained consistent:
- Treat imaginary friends as real friends. We do not try to make her give up her imaginary friends. We enjoy hearing the adventures of Laura’s friends. For example, Lisa left for several months because she was visiting her family in South America.
- Let Laura guide how to interact with her imaginary friends. If Laura says that Pinky hit her and wants us to discipline, then Pinky is scolded and put into time out just as Laura would be.
Laura knows her imaginary friends are not real. When we play along too much, she reminds us of that fact.
What is your experience with imaginary friends? Did you have one when you were a child?