Dear Mr. Dad,
My three-year-old daughter has an imaginary friend named Maggie. She talks to her all the time, draws with her, and "reads" her favorite books to her. I even have to set an extra place at the dinner table for Maggie or my daughter won't eat. Is this okay or should I be concerned about my daughter's sanity?
Having imaginary playmates is a pretty normal part of growing up -- especially in the toddler years -- and they serve several important functions:
While it's generally perfectly fine to humor your child and go along with her claims about the existence of an imaginary friend, there are a few ground rules:
Most kids lose their imaginary friends between their third and fifth birthdays. Sometimes the friends are forgotten, sometimes they're sent on a distant -- and permanent -- trip, and other times they "die" in a horrible accident.
-- "Mr. Dad"
A nationally recognized parenting expert, Armin Brott is the author of The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips and Advice for Dads-To-Be, The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year, The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the Toddler Years, Throwaway Dads: The Myths and Barriers That Keep Men from Being the Fathers They Want to Be, and The Single Father: A Dad's Guide to Parenting Without a Partner (New Father Series). He has written on parenting and fatherhood for the New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Newsweek and dozens of other periodicals. He also hosts "Positive Parenting," a nationally distributed, weekly talk show, and lives with his family in Oakland, California.