Thursday, July 28, 2011
THE PERFECT FRIEND
Haven’t you ever wanted someone to be your friend, available day or night, who would: not judge you, not talk when you wanted silence, protect you from scary things, take the blame for any accidents, sympathize with your daily problems and rejoice in your everyday victories, participate in your adventures (real or fantasy) and keep your secrets safe? During their early years, kids make these friendships possible all the time. Viola, meet your great/grandchild’s “imaginary’ friend.
As we’ve written in other publications: “When children become verbal and until school age, around six years old, one of their major developmental tasks is to learn the difference between reality and fantasy. What is real and what is pretend? They may include an ‘imaginary’ friend, ‘Robin’, in their play, and not want anyone to sit on the empty swing next to them, because it’s being occupied by ‘Robin’. During these years of figuring out what is real and what is fantasy, dramatic play with imaginary friends is a normal and productive exercise.”
If your young great/grandchild has an imaginary friend, it may be puzzling. You may wonder if there is something missing from the child’s life if s/he has to depend on a friend you cannot see, hear or understand. Are tea parties with two place settings and wonderful, intimate conversations an OK thing when the child is the only one present? How about a card-table tent that has room for two astronauts and only the child is talking and acting out a lunar landing with a never-to-be-seen buddy?