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Subject:Spirit Guide vs Imaginary Friend
Time:04:48 pm
My son (who is almost 8) has recently been describing someone to me that he is calling a Spirit Guide. Evidently, said guide follows my car on a skateboard, among other things. How can a parent tell the difference between a Guide and an imaginary friend? My son is a little old to develop an imaginary friend, but he's had a rough time the last couple of years. Does it matter which it is, as long as he feels better having this guide?
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mrw372435
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Time:2006-02-13 02:20 pm (UTC)
On the contrary, his behavior has shown an improvement recently. His logic is still flawed, but he's at least making an attempt to reason things out, he's calmer and his aura no longer looks like tangled wire.
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mzwyndi
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Time:2006-02-13 02:18 pm (UTC)
My strategy is to call them all Imaginary Friends. I have yet to see anything that says a Spirit Guide and an Imaginary Friend are substantially *different*, beyond persistance. Besides, society puts 'perfectly normal' on Imaginary Friends and 'flaky' on Spirit Guides. Where possible, it's best to set people up to interact with your child as a normal, creative, dynamic person.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2004-12-19-real-play-usat_x.htm
http://www.drgreene.com/21_931.html
http://www.theconnection.org/shows/2004/12/20041215_b_main.asp
http://familyfun.go.com/parenting/child/health/childhealth/dony79enc_ifriend/

Important things to look for (whatever you call the phenomenon) are:

- What sorts of things does the non-tangible friend say or do?

Many psychologists view this as a sort of creative self-talk, and there's no reason not to frame it in that context when you need to think critically about it. If the 'friend' is saying mean things, hurting words, or pushing him off the playground equipment... you might have some unresolved fears or social anxieties happening. If they're having tea parties and talking about how to find the cheat codes on X-box, not so much an issue.

- Does this interfere in any substantial way with his day?

If his room is trashed and his imaginary friend did it, or he can't do his homework, or he won't eat his dinner... then there is some acting out happening. If they're just playing GI Joe together, it's all good.

- Can he talk about it in a way that can pass as normal?

This is a big one for kids of that age. He's now reached a point where his peers will look at his behavior and make judgements (often unkind ones) that will persist for another decade. Where possible you should encourage him to talk about this in socially appropriate ways. It'll probably pass (genuine spirit guides usually move along once the lesson is learned, imaginary friends don't often persist for more than a year) and between now and then it's important to be accomodating without giving carte blanche to everything the 'friend' wants to do.
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mrw372435
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Time:2006-02-13 02:24 pm (UTC)
Surprisingly, my son has a well-developed sense of discretion when it comes to spiritual matters. He's only told me and his grandmother (my mother) about this spirit. We're the ones most likely to understand. His father won't understand, and my son instinctively did not talk to him about it. As I told Terajjin, his behavior has improved, something he attributes to this guide's assistance. I'm not really concerned about his safety, more wondering if other parents had experienced this with their children and what (if anything) I need to do about it. Thanks for the input!
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mzwyndi
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Time:2006-02-13 02:27 pm (UTC)
As long as the interaction is producing positive, happy kidness... I'd say it's a good thing. It's just another way that we, as human beings, interact with our world. The links are interesting, you might get a bit of something out of them.

My son has has imaginary friends since he was old enough to talk, call 'em what you will. He's taken to calling them his brothers and sisters, which confuses people enough that I encourage him to use proper names instead.

I had a persistant imaginary friend, my parents still tell stories about setting a place for him at dinner and making sure there was an extra seat at the movie theater.
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mrw372435
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Time:2006-02-13 02:30 pm (UTC)
According to my mother, I had about a dozen intangible friends (I like that term) when I was 3 or 4. We were living in a isolated area of southern Italy, I didn't interact with other kids much and based on what my mom says their names were, I'm inclined to think they were ghosts or spirits of some sort. They did not come back to the US with us. I glanced through the links, but I'll have to wait until I get home to really dig into them. As long as he's happy and well-behaved I'm not too concerned.
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mzwyndi
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Time:2006-02-13 02:39 pm (UTC)
I seem to have had just the one, with a perfectly normal little boy name. Strangely, my son has one by the same name, among a cast of about a half-dozen.

Now, could one speculate that this is a ghost, a spirit, a guide, a fairy, an ancestor, a guardian angel, et al? Sure. But I tend to approach my magic with an eye for the pragmatic. If it doesn't matter what it is, why bother trying to nail it down? Makes the kid happy, hooray for that.
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mrw372435
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Time:2006-02-13 02:32 pm (UTC)
I sincerely hope so. I've been trying to teach it to him, but was having doubts of his understanding it as I was explaining it. His brain does not work the same way mine does.
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srain
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Time:2006-02-13 07:15 pm (UTC)
I would tend to agree with you and the others who have commented. It seems that this is a positive influence on him so it may not matter very much what you call it. I'm not certain how you would be able to tell the difference aside from the affects of this friend. Since it is positive, he may be right that it is a guide. Perhaps time will tell. It sounds like he is handling it all well, so I don't see the harm. Good luck!
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