Healthy Imaginary Friends

Dear Dr. Bill,

Our 4-year-old grandson, Gavin, has a very creative imagination.  Recently he’s been telling his parents and me about “Feeka” — who is his “other mommy.”

According to Gavin, he and Feeka live down the street from his house, and he’s already told us several little stories about their life.  Their entire family just listened and laughed, and we didn’t think much about it.  But my husband was very concerned; he wonders if Gavin’s relationship with “Feeka” is abnormal.  Should we be concerned about Gavin’s behavior — or just let him talk and love him?



Dear Beth,

I wouldn’t be concerned about your grandson’s stories and his very vivid imagination.  Imaginary friends are completely normal for kids his age.

The one aspect of his stories that does seem a bit odd is that he is focusing on his “other mommy.”  If his relationship with his own mother is healthy, there is probably no reason to worry.

But if that relationship is strained in some way-for example if his mother is depressed or emotionally unavailable to him, then it would be wise for the entire family to seek out a family therapist.

There is one other possible explanation—does Gavin have any friends who are from blended families?  If so, he may be simply responding to the fact that those friends seem to have “two mommies,” while he only has one.  After all, if one mommy is good, two mommies must be even better.  Especially when you’ve misbehaved and your number one mommy has punished you!

To learn more about the developmental stages of children and what’s normal, I’d suggest Focus on the Family’s excellent resource, “The Complete Book of Baby and Child Care.”

Thanks for writing, Beth.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

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