During the recent TACLP conference at Cook Childrens Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, I attended a very interesting presentation about imaginary friends and how they can provide a helping hand to children in the hospital. The presenters talked about how imaginary friends help children work on many skills including socializing, problem solving, and emotional regulation, to name a few. I was really struck by the fact that according to their research, it’s actually a good thing to have an imaginary friend and that it doesn’t stunt development at all. This is important for child life specialists to know because we might find ourselves working with families who worry that a child’s imaginary friend is holding that child back.
They talked about a bunch of different ways to integrate imaginary friends into child life practice, but one of my favorites was a program from the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation called the Imaginary Friends Society . It has a bunch of resources including a video library that features tons of different issues and experiences kids might have at the hospital. Of course a few of the videos focus on the cancer experience, but there are also a bunch that can be used with all different types of diagnoses. I really like the one about MRIs, and the one about shots. I can’t wait to find the right kid to show.
What are your thoughts on imaginary friends? Can they be used as a helper for the developing child? Have you ever worked with a child who has an imaginary friend? Or did you have one yourself? I would definitely be interested in learning more about this subject as well as the use of imagination in general. I’m also very curious about what happens to the imagination in adolescence. Does it go away, or become modern dormant? And if so, why? Is it something that is genetically wired to happen or is just because of how our society views the imagination? What are your thoughts?