Recently my girls were watching the film Inside Out, which if you haven’t seen it, is a Disney film that is based around emotions and the complicated workings of the inside of a little girls head.
One of the film’s characters is Bing Bong, which is Riley’s imaginary friend from when she was young.
This got me thinking about my girls and their relationship and connection to their toys and their imagination in their play. (I know the big issues right?)
Avalon, when she around three years old, had an imaginary friend who used to come everywhere with us. She told us that her name was Fonga and she was tall, with long green hair and big black eyes! Seriously sounded like a character from the Labyrinth to me, but Avalon loved her and it was clear that there was real interaction, in Avalon’s mind anyway, between the two of them.
Avalon and Fonga played together for hours every day until one day she just disappeared completely. We reminded Avalon about her recently and she desperately tried to find her for a couple of weeks but was obviously unable to conjure her back up again.
So how do kids develop imaginary friends?
The first studies on imaginary friends began in around the 1890s, and since then its estimated that around 37 percent of children will have an imaginary friend.
Many people firmly believe that imaginary friends are spirits that still have a connection to the real world.
Psychic, Denise Litchfield, is known as a ghost whisperer and believes children who have imaginary friends have a connection to the spirit world. She says that imaginary friends are not actually imaginary but are a spirit, and usually a relative or someone with a connection to the child and are watching over the child.
I’m not sure I’ve ever been related to someone with long green hair and big black eyes.. they must be from Dave’s side of the family but I like the idea that there is someone watching over the child.
Science however says its a developmental thing, when a child starts to see themselves as a person separate from others, they will begin to work through this in their own minds and an imaginary friend can be a way to start understanding difference in people.
Fonga didn’t hang around in our family for too long, she had disappeared after a few months, however some people’s imaginary friends can stick around long after childhood. Some studies have shown adolescents with imaginary friends, and contrary to what you would believe, these were not just children with social issues, they were often socially competent but creative kids who turned to an imaginary friend to help process things in their minds.
If they are generally the more creative kids that have imaginary friends, perhaps these children and adolescents go on to become artists, and writers and these friends then become characters in a story?
It is also shown that oldest children, only children or children who don’t watch a lot of television are more likely to have imaginary friends.
Maybe this is why Avalon had one, but so far, Marla has not.
Do or have your children ever had an imaginary friend? What was their name? What did they look like? Did you have to made allowances in your family for their friend, like setting a place at the table for them? Maybe the imaginary friend was mischievous and would ‘get your child into trouble’?