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Imaginary siblings

(16 Posts)
JustFiveMoreMinutes Sat 30-May-09 14:05:24

DD is 5 and an only. Over the last few months she has mentioned a "sister" who she pushes on her swing. Today she mentioned a "brother".

I've managed to get bits of information here and there, and it turns out the whole thing was started by her grandfather. The fact that it was his idea is a whole different conversation as there's an agenda there that needs sorting out.

My problem is I really don't know how to react when she starts talking about it. TBH I'm uncomfortable with it - partly because it was the grandfather's idea; partly because it makes me think she really wants siblings; partly because I'm afraid if it continues she'll isolate herself at school.

Is all that crazy? If it's a healthy part of growing up, I will let her carry on. So far I've just made comments like "Oh, that's nice" and not encouraged it at all because I feel so uncomfortable with it.

Sorry this has turned out so long! Any advice or experiences shared will be greatly appreciated.

3littlefrogs Sat 30-May-09 14:09:22

This is difficult. I have experience of "imaginary friends", past lives, and spirit children. However, I would hesitate to give any advice/opinion, without knowing exactly waht the grandfather's input has been, and what the relationship is like between all of you.

Bucharest Sat 30-May-09 14:25:08

Imaginary friends whether for an only child or a non-only is a GoodThingIndeed- it shows high intelligence and a capacity for creativity and imagination.

My daughter's first imaginary friend was a girl called Donald hmm now it seems mainly to be imaginary-friends-who-are-actually-under-the-sea-creatures.

Don't worry about it, honestly. I had one until I was about 10. blush

JustFiveMoreMinutes Sat 30-May-09 14:35:28

Hi 3littlefrogs,

"Agenda" may be too strong. The introduction of imaginary siblings seems to be part of his grieving process. His wife died 14 months ago and since then he has been living his life as she would have lived hers, iyswim. The imaginary sister has the same name bar 3 letters as his wife.

Also, the reason it's a sister instead of just a friend is also unsettling. I had a miscarriage a year before DD was born. The "sister" is an older sister. I had a difficult time dealing with the miscarriage and this sort of thing doesn't really help.

And finally, there have always been hints - not pressure, but hints - that more grandchildren would be very welcome.

I would describe the relationship between us as slightly on the superficial side - we get along fine enough, but conversations stick to non-contentious subjects. We've all accepted that his outlook and views are very different to ours (mine and DH's) so we just keep things peaceful.

I have talked to DH (it is his father) and he agrees this imaginary sister isn't something either of us would like to encourage, but as it seems to be another coping mechanism for him we've been hesitant to raise it. However, now that there is a brother as well it's getting worrying.

Maybe this should have gone into a different category all together! I hope this clarifies things a bit - apologies again for the ramble! Guess it's more complicated than I first thought.

JustFiveMoreMinutes Sat 30-May-09 14:37:40

Bucharest - LOL! Thank you. I will bear that in mind. Perhaps I just need to try and forget the imaginary siblings' origin and go with the flow...

ilovetochat Sat 30-May-09 14:40:40

i was an only and had imaginary friends but only when i was alone so it didnt isolate me. tbh it was when i was lonely though.

3littlefrogs Sat 30-May-09 15:17:44

I think the granfather needs some help - either counselling or a support group such as cruse for example. The imaginary sibling thing can be a normal phase in the life of a 5 year old, but it is going to be difficult to handle it if the grandfather is adding to it and reinforcing it.

Perhaps DH needs to have a bit of a chat with his dad and take it from there?

Bucharest Sat 30-May-09 15:25:28

Agree- your daughter's imaginary friends/siblings aren't a problem at all, but Grandad's do seem to be.....
Hope you sort it out without too much upset...

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Sat 30-May-09 17:11:34

My daughter's a bit older than yours, but when she was between about three and five she used often to play games in which an invisible friend would be taking part - schools where she was teacher and an invisible friend was the pupil and so on.

I tend to agree that imaginary friends aren't anything to worry about - perhaps only children need them more, as there isn't another playmate in the house - and I wouldn't be too bothered if the friend was also a sibling. However, if grandad is prompting your daughter (or if this is part of a gentle propaganda campaign for more grandchildren) then I think your husband does need to broach it with him. Cruse sounds like a very good starting point.

JustFiveMoreMinutes Sat 30-May-09 19:25:47

I hadn't considered that it might be unhealthy for the grandfather. I thought it was just his way of dealing with the loss - not that it might be a bad way. I know everyone grieves in their own way - it's nothing like how my Mum dealt with the loss of my Dad, and it's nothing like I dealt with that loss. But I just assumed it was his way and therefore should be approached left alone as much as possible.

There is something about a propaganda campaign - and I also think it's him trying to 'help' DD cope with being an only (which I don't think she needed in the first place) and with the added bonus (in his view) of keeping the grandmother 'alive' for himself and for DD (again, which I don't think she necessarily needs in THIS form).

This is really helpful - thank you all. It's also nice to be able to talk about it with a 3rd party (i.e. without worrying about upsetting DH). So thank you. smile

Bucharest Sun 31-May-09 09:16:32

Apologies that the link is from Supernanny (sigh) but "she" does make sense here:
www.supernanny.co.uk/Advice/-/Health-and-Development/-/4-to-13-years/The-magic-of-imaginary-friends. aspx

Also interesting to note that imaginary friends are particularly common when a new sibling is born....(so nothing to do with lonely onlies!)

JustFiveMoreMinutes Sun 31-May-09 18:33:57

Very interesting, Bucharest. Esp the section on "Missing Persons", which is relevant. I still agree with your earlier comment about if it was DD's imaginary sibling it would be one thing, but it's a bit disturbing that it was introduced and encouraged by her grandad.

I think my plan will be to just leave things be with DD and the 'siblings' and have a chat with DH about his dad and healthy coping strategies.

DD is very imaginitive - exhaustingly so sometimes. She already talks to her cuddly toys and makes them talk to us. The conversations I've had with cats and bunnies over the years...

dilemma456 Fri 03-Jul-09 12:17:21

Message withdrawn

daisy99divine Fri 03-Jul-09 12:20:02

lol Dilemma456

SoupDragon Fri 03-Jul-09 12:21:17

DD is a thirdborn and she has an imaginary "nanny" who has a whole complicated and involved imaginary life, dog and house etc the full works. Today some imaginary siblings appeared who live at her Nanny's House. I just let her get on with it (although she's only 3).

However, this is entirely of her own making. I would be rather annoyed had someone instigated it in the way her grandfather has. I would ask him not to encourage it further and let it run its course.

SoupDragon Fri 03-Jul-09 12:21:47

"her grandfather" meaning your DDs, not mine

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