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imaginary people


Melissa in Australia

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Sure. But are you more concerned this child is seeing a homeless person who's hiding from you, or a ghost or demon or something?

 

When I was a kid an adult I knew used to ask my parents if I had an imaginary friend yet or not.  I knew what imaginary friends were from watching Sesame Street, but until I heard this person ask that repeatedly I didn't know it was normal to have an imaginary friend.  When I heard that, I decided to make one up.  I apparently had the entire extended family half convinced I was talking to a ghost that followed me around for about a year and a half.  She wasn't a ghost.  I made her up because an adult kept asking if I had one yet.

 

I later learned this particular adult had schizophrenia, and was convinced the house we lived in had demons and that as a child I could see them if I wanted to.

 

There's a moral in there someplace.

 

 

Edited repeatedly for grammar because apparently I'm bad at it when mixed with nyquil.

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I had an imaginary person I talked to for a long time.  He seemed real to me but he was actually an imaginary "adult" mouse with a scarf and he drove a convertible.  I talked to him out loud and in my head.  I didn't really "play" with him.  He was just around.  Mom and Dad I guess thought it was cute when I was 2-4.  When I got a bit older I stopped talking about him since I started getting funny vibes from my parents.  I could still "see" him, though, until I was a bit older.  I don't recall when he faded out of my life.  

 

Not sure if what I experienced was "normal" but it wasn't scary to me and I wasn't making decisions that would be harmful based on anything I thought my friend was saying.  As I got older I did recognize that he wasn't real and I was a bit sad at that but it wasn't a big deal.

 

Not sure exactly what you are referring to, though, so maybe your situation is vastly different.

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my friend's kid made up a person who was responsible for anything that went wrong. No one ever saw her, but she made a mess, I can tell you!

 

It was harmless and it went away after a bit. It was kind of funny at the time. Especially because it wasn't as if the child was going to get into trouble for what had happened. Often it was stuff no one was "responsible" for, like mommy forgetting to pick up milk at the store etc. 

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Sure. But are you more concerned this child is seeing a homeless person who's hiding from you, or a ghost or demon or something?

 

When I was a kid an adult I knew used to ask my parents if I had an imaginary friend yet or not.  I knew what imaginary friend were from watching Sesame Street, but until I heard this person ask that repeatedly I didn't know it was normal to have an imaginary friend.  When I heard that, I decided to make one up.  I apparently had the entire extended family half convinced I was talking to a ghost that followed me around for about a year and a half.  She wasn't a ghost.  I made her up because an adult kept asking if I had one yet.

 

I later learned this particular adult had schizophrenia, and was convinced the house we lived in had demons and that as a child I could see them if I wanted to.

 

There's a moral in there someplace.

no.

 just hoping it is normal and not a sign of instability

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I would still think it is okay if it is someone they just talk to... May I ask how old the child is....or do you need to keep that private?

Honestly, I would say with my dd it was more "talking" than playing. However, her imaginary friend's were "kids" and were her age or slightly older.

 

4

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4 year olds don't really distinguish between real life and "play" the way adults or older kids do. It is sort of a fluid thing.Because play is such a big part of a child's day, it is easy for them carry it into times of not playing without even thinking about it. I don't know if that makes sense. But my little ones always just sort of played or imagined all the time.

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Let me just say this...  If this particular child has been interviewed by a therapist once or twice, she might have been asked by a therapist if she had an imaginary friend.  If she heard that from an adult she trusted, and they implied it was expected, she might have made it up with that tiny bit of prompting alone.

 

If you're at all concerned this imaginary person was dreamed up as a tool by an abuser to keep a child in line - then the child probably needs help understanding it's not true and that person can't hurt her any more. 

 

Yes, it's absolutely normal and even healthy, but if your intuition says something is wrong, get a good therapist involved.  If your intuition says this seems more like a symptom of abuse than of an imaginary friend, get some help.  Trust your instincts.

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no.

just hoping it is normal and not a sign of instability

At 4 probably normal.

 

My culture believes that children has the ability to see spirits and the child would become ill. That is why people would bring young children when visiting a house for sale.

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Totally normal. I had several imaginary friends until i was 14 - not all at the same time, the person would change based on the happenings in my daily life. I did that to escape my boring reality and isolation (we lived far away from civilization for most of my childhood and did not really have warm and friendly family members). I lost those friends as soon as I moved to a place where there was more peer interaction, access to entertainment, books, more mobility etc.

 

I don't think that it is concerning at age 4 at all.

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thank you everyone. I feel a little less concerned knowing that others had imaginary people in their lifes

 

 this imaginary person is not a friend, but rather a bad person who the 4 year old is constantly punishing for imaginary misdemeanors. This person has just appeared, but maybe I only just got wind of it.

 

 

So hard to distinguish between the normal child stage  things and trauma related things. :sad:

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My sister had an imaginary Grandma when she was young. She was around for a few years.

 

My niece talked to "people" in my brother and SIL's creepy, super old house where a fair number of "unexplained events" occurred while they lived there.

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thank you everyone. I feel a little less concerned knowing that others had imaginary people in their lifes

 

 this imaginary person is not a friend, but rather a bad person who the 4 year old is constantly punishing for imaginary misdemeanors. This person has just appeared, but maybe I only just got wind of it.

 

 

So hard to distinguish between the normal child stage  things and trauma related things. :sad:

 

That sounds a little more concerning.  I'd would be a little worried about that with the punishing.

 

My son would play with his friend and talk to him, but it was in a good way.  

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thank you everyone. I feel a little less concerned knowing that others had imaginary people in their lifes

 

 this imaginary person is not a friend, but rather a bad person who the 4 year old is constantly punishing for imaginary misdemeanors. This person has just appeared, but maybe I only just got wind of it.

 

 

So hard to distinguish between the normal child stage  things and trauma related things. :sad:

 

It's really normal for little ones.

 

That said, my D had an imaginary friend/friends, persisting into her teens. In her case, it does appear to be trauma related.

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I'm an adoptive parent of a traumatized child. I had to take those parenting classes.  I think it's worth seeing a therapist that has special training for traumatized adoptees when something like this comes along as a precaution.  As mentioned upthread, punishing an imaginary person is very different than normal imaginary friend interaction. It may be nothing at all, but based on what I remember from those classes, I would consider it a possible red flag.

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I'm an adoptive parent of a traumatized child. I had to take those parenting classes.  I think it's worth seeing a therapist that has special training for traumatized adoptees when something like this comes along as a precaution.  As mentioned upthread, punishing an imaginary person is very different than normal imaginary friend interaction. It may be nothing at all, but based on what I remember from those classes, I would consider it a possible red flag.

child is already seeing a psychologist. but I forgot to mention it this week when we saw psychologist.

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Our pediatrician told me it was a sign of intelligence and an imaginative/creative mind. 

 

I like your pediatrician!   :coolgleamA:

 

One article says it gives them some control.

 

This would match my control issues... (sigh) and confirm that they've always been part of my life.

 

I read somewhere that this is really normal for HIGHLY INTELLIGENT children.

 

I can't tell you how relieved I was.

 

I'm glad I read this thread.   :hurray:

 

I wasn't into my people tolerating or loving stage until much older, so I had an imaginary dog.   I had real dogs too, but my imaginary dog went with me everywhere and was the best companion one could ever have - I guess pretty similar to Calvin and Hobbes, but "Rex" was totally imaginary in reality yet very real to me.  

 

This thread brought back great memories.

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My dd had an imaginary friend named Johnny (who was a girl). Johnny, like someone else's child up-thread, traveled a lot. She had all kinds of experiences that she would relate to my dd.

 

I read in an article that one reason children have imaginary friends is to use their expanding vocabularies to talk about things they have never personally experienced. Therefore when my daughter said, "Johnny went to Africa and ate couscous with an elephant that had big tusks..." It was because she wanted to get to use all of those great words.  My daughter eventually grew out of it, but we all really miss the funny stories about Johnny. 

 

There is a really funny Moth Radio Hour that you can find on Youtube where the author Adam Gopnik tells the story of his daughter's imaginary friend named Charlie Ravioli. They live in New York and Charlie has a personal assistant. Good stuff. 

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My daughter had grandma ensa from the ages of 2-5. If I told dd to do something she didn't want to do grandma ensa told her she didn't have to.

One day when dd was 5 she was crying hysterical in the bathroom. When I asked her what was wrong she said grandma ensa died. Dd never mentioned her again.

During the years grandma ensa was around we tried to figure out what was up. We asked if grandma ensa lived in our house. Dd scoffed and said no, she had her own house. On the day grandma ensa died dd told us that she used to live with grandma ensa in a house by a river and that grandma ensa died in a flood. After the flood they were nowhere.

I have had people tell me grandma ensa was a memory of a past life, she was a guardian angel, she was a spirit who liked my dd. Never harmful and that dd will probably speak to the spirits again as an adult. That she could do it now but she tuned out that ability because it got too scary. I guess time will tell on that one.

The point of my ramble is imaginary people are normal.

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One of my girls had several (one at a time). The first appeared on our back porch when dd was not quite one. (Yes, I had a verbal baby.) She called it Elvis. He pretty much just hung out on the back porch. Then, Elvis moved to the bathtub. He stayed there about a year. Then, he left and spotted pig showed up when she was about two and a half. Around four, spotted pig morphed into super girl. Spotted pig was usually around all the time. Super girl usually just showed up when dd was anxious. Dd didn't play with any of them. She just acknowledged their presence and talked to them occasionally.

 

I would think that a naughty imaginary friend who was being punished could be a child working through what is right and wrong. Maybe accepting that punishment was a part of being cared for. Could even be a bit of aggression in an acceptable manner. A way of taking control of a situation for a child who doesn't have much control over their life. Sometimes it is nice to be the one in charge, and littles don't get that very often.

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My daughter had an imaginary person. She didn't play with her she just liked to talk about her. It was strongest when she was four and gone by the time she was six.

 

Now she believes fairies are real. Once again, she doesn't play with. She only talks about them. It started when she was six.

 

Since she's been three, she has been scared of red lights at night. She says it is the army guys/ bad guys coming to get her. At 8 years old, that is finally starting to fade.

 

She is a highly imaginative child.

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My daughter had an imaginary person. She didn't play with her she just liked to talk about her. It was strongest when she was four and gone by the time she was six.

 

Now she believes fairies are real. Once again, she doesn't play with. She only talks about them. It started when she was six.

 

Since she's been three, she has been scared of red lights at night. She says it is the Army guys/ bad guys coming to get her. At 8 years old, that is finally starting to fade.

 

She is a highly imaginative child.

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I had an imaginary dog. My sister had one too. The dog's name was Pinky. I have no idea when I stopped seeing/imagining Pinky, but this thread has brought back some great memories. 

I think in your situation I would mention it to a therapist, but wouldn't be (too) worried at this point.

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thank you everyone. I feel a little less concerned knowing that others had imaginary people in their lifes

 

 this imaginary person is not a friend, but rather a bad person who the 4 year old is constantly punishing for imaginary misdemeanors. This person has just appeared, but maybe I only just got wind of it.

 

 

So hard to distinguish between the normal child stage  things and trauma related things. :sad:

 

I would be worried if the person was causing some sort of anxiety.  I'd wonder if something happened to the child.

 

My older kid had an imaginary person.  It went on for quite some time.  He was never much into playing like little kids play so no he didn't talk about playing with the person, but at no point was he upset, angry, or scolding the person (or the other way around). 

 

But I'm no expert either! 

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My ds had an imaginary sister. Around age 4. For a long time. I was sad when I realized she had gone away.

 

I don't think there is anything different about it being a person rather than a friend. Maybe for this child the imaginary person is a mother and that is making you feel uncomfortable since YOU are the mother. I don't know. But I think imaginary people is a very common thing for many kids.

 

I have been told it is a sign of intelligence. I never had one...so,there ya go.

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I had an imaginary friend when I was a kid - her name was Gabby and I used to make my mom set her a place at the dinner table. :-) I turned out ok (I think!)

 

I should have read the whole thread before replying - I think the punishing bit would be worth a mention to the psychologist next time you're there. 

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When my DS was that age, he had three imaginary brothers. There were all older than him, and were allowed to do all the stuff that he wasn't and have all the stuff that he couldn't have. He talked about them so much that the teachers at pre-school did not realize they were imaginary. Eventually, they all went away. DS doesn't even remember them.

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One of my brothers and I both had imaginary friends. I don't remember much about mine but I didn't think they were pretend at the time. One of my brother's was a wolf dog who did bad things but that is in the context of a 3-5 year old. I don't remember what the bad things were, but when my brother got in trouble he blamed the one imaginary friend.

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I can understand why this would concern you, given the child's past history.

 

At the same time it seems like an entirely age-appropriate and actually maybe healthy way to handle feelings of anger and questions about how anger and blame should be processed. You know, compared to taking out anger on a real person, or trying to punish a real person (as perhaps he was once punished), this is better.

 

I'd still send a quick message to the psych. And in the meantime, I might be tempted to just ask the child what the imaginary person did when it comes up again, and in the spirit of entering into play, just casually talk through the scenario. Why did Imaginary Person do that? How did I. P. feel when he did it? How did Child feel? Was there anything they could have done differently? .... all assuming that child wants to talk about it. Maybe, with luck, you'd get some insight into it all.

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