Valorie Burton: Is there an extra friend at your house. If you have young kids, that's not unusual. But what if they are not real? Imaginary friends are a totally normal part of life for preschoolers. They often fill a particular need for a child. For instance, if a child has been made fun of a lot of times they'll create a super hero that has superpowers to help them feel more protected.
The first or only child is the most likely to counter up an imaginary friend. They can help your kids be more confident and can even boost their social skills. Studies have shown that language skills can develop earlier with children who talk with their imaginary friend.
However a make-believe buddy can make parents feel a little uncomfortable. But don't be shy, you can engage with the friend, just not to much. You don't have to go as far as setting a place at the table for your child's imaginary acquaintance, but playing along can be fun for both of you. Just ask a few questions. The answers that come with pretend play will stimulate your child's imagination.
In time the imaginary friend should one day disappear on his own, the way most imaginary friends do. You shouldn't be concerned about imaginary friends unless a child is so focused on the relationship with the friend that he or she seems to be losing touch with reality.
And of course you should never allow your child to blame their imaginary friend for their own misbehavior, that weren't some consequences that aren't pretend.