I vaguely recall having an imaginary friend for a short time while I was in elementary school. I want to say it was in 2nd grade, but memories that far back get kinda fuzzy for me. I marvel at those who are my age and older who can remember things from their childhood with such sparkling clarity as though it happened yesterday. Anyway, I digress. This post is about imaginary friends, not faulty memories. I remember having this imaginary friend, but I also remember knowing that this friend was not real. I knew that this friends’ presence was the product of my own mind. I say this because I believe if it were anything other than an imaginary person, like, say a ghost, I would remember whether my friend was male or female, his/her age and at least a name. I remember none of these things. Yet for many children, it seems that their imaginary friends are suddenly spirits of deceased children not understanding they’re dead and simply want a playmate.
I understand and accept that children’s minds are more open to the unexplained simply because they haven’t been jaded by the realities imposed on us as adults. It’s okay for kids to accept things that aren’t within the norm because “they don’t know any better.” But I’m not so sure that there is that large of a percentage of these kids whose imaginary friends were once living, breathing children. Just because a child may go somewhere and see ghosts doesn’t mean he/she will have that experience wherever they go and that their imaginary friend automatically falls into that category.
I’m also not convinced that a child’s spirit would be congnisant enough to know that it can move beyond its boundaries and many children’s imaginary friends tend to travel with them wherever they go. The vague recollections I have of my brief imaginary friendship, involve him/her being at school with me. I remember “sharing” my seat with my friend as well.
There’s a fine psychological line to walk when children are developing. Telling them that their imaginary friend wasn’t a living breathing human being at one point in the past might make them think they are not normal. At the same time, ignoring the presense of an imaginary friend that was never a person to begin with might be damaging to their creativity later in life. The key with this, as with any situation involving children, is to communicate with your child. Some good advice offered by psychotherapist Caron Goode:
Goode says the ability to pick up the paranormal often shows up at a young age, and one way parents can tell if their kids are really seeing something is the child’s reaction to it.
For instance, if Junior thinks he sees a ghost and has a visceral gut reaction that makes him run to tell Mom or afraid to go to sleep, chances are it’s not imaginary.
Parapsychologist Lloyd Auerbach also states: “One way to tell the difference between whether the child is seeing something more than an imaginary friend is when they mention recognizable details about someone you know, such as a dead relative they never met.”
I think there’s also other keys to determining whether your child’s unseen friend is really a ghost or simply the product of an active imagination. Their friend’s name would be a good indicator. I doubt a full name would be important to a child who is creating a friend from their imagination. Full name along with familial history would be something a dead child might offer. Any friend which is part of the imagination is going to be focused on your child because he/she might be lacking in friends they feel able to confide in. A child’s spirit might simply want a playmate and talk also of other family members. I think it’s wrong to just assume that any ghosts a child encounters will be an adult.
Regardless of what an imaginary child is or might’ve been, it’s important to always talk about things and if it is a child who lived 10, 20 or even 100 years ago, I think helping that child move on will give your own child a sense of good feelings that he/she was able to help another child.