Imaginary Friends Good or Bad?
by Terri Bonin
We are avid readers around here. I try to teach my kids to read a wide variety of genres so they won’t have lopsided brains, I tell them. (Just kidding, sort of.) I want them to learn how to think and to be conversationalist, so if you ever meet a boring Bonin, it’s not my fault! I tried! But the most important step for me as a home school mom is to talk to my kids about the author’s point of view, to help them dig deep. Where are they coming from? What do we know about the author that would have shaped him to write it? I want my kids to THINK! Not to just digest!
So here’s a little story I wrote to show that how we train our children matters:
The elementary school child stands outside the classroom door ANXIOUS on this first day. Sweaty palms clasp the cold metal doorknob and questions flood:
Will they like me?
What if I’m the only one in clothes like this?
What if EVERYONE is buying lunch and I’m the only one with a lunch box?
What if I don’t know the answers?
What if… what if…
Fears, doubts, and self-insecurities creep through the brain. Trembling for a brief moment the child remembers his mother’s counsel to talk to his imaginary friend, “He’ll tell you what to do. He knows the answers and will guide you.”
The new made-up friend encourages him to walk through the door this morning and assures him that everything will be fine. The invisible buddy gives similar advice the child’s mother gives.
The young child calls his new friend Wiz and learns to seek Wiz’s wisdom and advice in situations, self-doubt, insecurities, and more. Wiz guides him, relaxes him, and helps the child reach deep inside his inner self for instruction and peace. Wiz calms fears.
Wiz is fictitious yet very real to the young child. The child’s concerned mom wants the best for her offspring and dreams of success in her son’s life, both now and as an adult. In her quest to help him cope with changes and daily stress she follows the advice of a professional child physiologist-an expert and assists her son in adopting an imaginary guide. Pretend is an important game for children. God gave us an imagination to help us have vision, and playing pretend is actually a child’s work; it’s how they grow, but let’s break down the exercise of putting an imaginary friend as an authority or guide.
As the questions become more serious, the stress greater, the decisions weightier, the made-up wisdom giver is not a sustainable source of guidance. Confusion and darkness will be his companions if he has not learned to seek wisdom from the One who has all the answers. We would not go to a blacksmith for direction on how to bake a cake; we head straight to a baker. And we should teach our children where to go to find wisdom. The bible is full of ancient wisdom and even if you are not a Christian, biblical principals work for a successful life.
“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” Psalms 118:8.
Why not just point our kids to the Creator who made them in the first place? It makes more sense to teach them to talk to God rather than an imaginary friend with no background in counseling. He, the One who made us, will comfort and guide them (and us) better than any fictitious character. Pinky promise!
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