Understanding your child's imaginary friend

Child Psychiatrist, Joshua Sparrow, MD, shares advice for parents regarding their child's imaginary friend and how to tell if it fine or if it is taking the place of real relationships with real friends
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Understanding your child's imaginary friend

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Imaginary friends often worry parents because parents worry that the child is relating to something that is not real. And i think sometimes, imaginary friends bother parents because it is a private relationship that a parent can't be apart of. But that's the whole point, the child sets up a private imaginary relationship where the child has complete control. I can make the imaginary friend be whatever I want her to be, to do whatever I want her to do. I can try things out, I can test things out, I can make the imaginary friend be responsible for the bad things that i did, I can blame my mistakes on the imaginary friend, I can try being the opposite gender by having the imaginary friend be the opposite gender. The whole point is it's private experience and so i think we need to not intrude and to let the child have this relationship for themselves. And the only time I would worry about the imaginary friend is it if it looks like beginning to take the place of real relationships with real friends. So, if you start to worry that your child is spending too much time with his or her imaginary friend that there is just not enough time for real friendships then its time to seek help and you may want to start with the child's pediatrician and talk to him or her about a mental health referral.

Child Psychiatrist, Joshua Sparrow, MD, shares advice for parents regarding their child's imaginary friend and how to tell if it fine or if it is taking the place of real relationships with real friends

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Joshua Sparrow, MD

Child Psychiatrist & Author brazeltontouchpoints.org

A child psychiatrist, Dr. Sparrow’s care in the 1990s for children hospitalized for severe psychiatric disturbances, often associated with physical and sexual abuse, and for developmental delays aggravated by social and economic deprivation, prompted his interest in community-based prevention and health promotion. At the Brazelton Touchpoints Center, his work focuses on cultural adaptations of family support programs, organizational professional development, and aligning systems of care with community strengths and priorities, and has included collaborative consultation with the Harlem Children's Zone and American Indian Early Head Start Programs, among many others. He has lectured extensively nationally and internationally on related topics and has consulted on media programming for children and parents, including PBS’s Frontlines and Discovery Kids. Co-author with Dr. T. Berry Brazelton of 8 books and the weekly New York Times Syndicated column, “Families Today,” Dr. Sparrow has also served as a contributing editor to Scholastic Services’ Parent and Child magazine. In 2006, he revised with Dr. Brazelton Touchpoints: Birth to Three, 2nd Edition and in 2010, co-edited Nurturing Children and Families: Building on the Legacy of T. B. Brazelton, a textbook on the ongoing generativeness of Brazelton’s seminal research in a wide range of fields. Dr. Sparrow has authored numerous other scholarly works, teaches and lectures nationally and internationally, and is frequently called upon for his expertise by national and international media. Prior to attending medical school, Dr. Sparrow worked for several years as a preschool teacher and journalist in New York City.

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