Working as a child psychologist comes with several awe inspiring experiences. The way children deal with the world around them and experience their emotions makes you wonder how much they over think over little things that we as adults think don’t make an impact on them. As a child, being accepted and appreciated for who you are is a need that is in built. Children tend to internalize these feelings and in order to find an outlet they create imaginary friends.
Research has also suggested that girls are more likely to conjure imaginary friends and that kids who have imaginary friends grow up to be more creative adults than those who do not.
A girl came to me who seemed shy and under confident. When asked about her friends she replied she has few friends but prefers to stay alone. Her mother reported that she has seen her talking to herself a lot and that’s what she do even when she is sitting with others at times. Upon asking about her self-talk, and does she have a friend that only she knows and no one else knows about? She remained silent for a while and then said YES.
I showed interest in knowing more about her imaginary friend, she smiled and said “Her name is Sofia, I can talk to her anytime and about anything. She never judges me or shouts at me.”
Children tend to create a world of their own when they feel threatened by the world around them. She was always happy and excited while talking about her imaginary friend, it felt as if I was talking to a new child, it revealed a part of her personality that was hidden. The fascinating part was how she used to discuss her problems with her imaginary friend and played several games too.
Sofia was the only source of trust and happiness for her in the world. She reported that girls at her school make fun of her style sense and short height. She doesn’t consider them as her true friend. Sofia (her imaginary friend) on the other hand is trustworthy, she doesn’t criticize her and never makes her feel inferior. Children develop such relationships when their current relationships are not understanding and they don’t give them space to be themselves.
Imaginary friends are a common and normal manifestation for many kids across many stages of development. In fact, by age 7, 65 percent of children will have had an imaginary friend, according to a 2004 study. A handful of small studies have tried to dig into the psychology of kids with imaginary friends.
One suggested that relationships with invisible beings fulfill a child’s need for friendship and are more common among firstborn or only children. Research has also suggested that girls are more likely to conjure imaginary friends and that kids who have imaginary friends grow up to be more creative adults than those who do not.