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kaidin
kaidin asks:
Q:

My son's imaginary friend is a "mean man" who says bad words to him.  What should I do?

Is there a difference when your child's imaginary friend is a man, has no name, but my child says that the man is being mean. Only appears at night and my child claims that the man wakes him up in the middle of the night to make my child cry. Teaches him to say bad words. I have a nephew who constantly says bad words, but he moved out way before my child had said a very bad words and said that the men says that to me. I have always made sure that my child knows the difference of good words form the bad words my child may have picked up and to respond by telling that person that he or she had said a very bad word.
In Topics: Friendships and peer relationships
> 60 days ago

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Expert

lkauffman
Feb 4, 2008
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What the Expert Says:

Hi Lorenza,

I agree with rkaiulani. It sounds like there are two distinct issues going on here. First, you should have a conversation with your son about "bad" words and help him to understand why you feel uncomfortable when he uses these words. You might explain to him that the words carry a certain meaning and when they are used out in public, other people are often bothered by them, will think that he is not a friendly boy, etc. Then, depending upon how much your son's use of bad words bothers your family, you might consider setting up a set of clear rules and consequences around his language.

Second, regarding your son's imaginary friend, I have a feeling that your son has unconsciously (without intentionally thinking about it) generated this new imaginary friend to represent certain fears and anxieties he is working through. Thus, I suspect that your son is dealing with worry and concerns in his life (e.g., friends, school work, family relationships) that he is having trouble sorting through. As a result, the mean man has evolved as a figure to which many of his fears can be projected on. To help your son cope, you might ask him about his experiences at school and in the family. If he can voice his concerns, this might relieve some of the tension and the mean man might go away. Another strategy is to help your son learn relaxation strategies to help deal with worry. I have worked with a number of parents of anxious children who have taught their children how to relax shortly before going to bed. Many parents have found the book, "Starbright - Meditations for children", useful. This is a book that you could read with your son to help him use guided visualization (e.g, going to a safe place) to calm himself. Similarly, you might start a "worry box" (cardboard box or otherwise) in which he can put his worries in. Worries in the worry box won't bother him any longer.

For more on imaginary friends, check out the following article:
http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_When_Your_Childs_New/

Just a few ideas. Let us know how it goes!

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Additional Answers (1)

rkaiulani
rkaiulani writes:
Hi Lorenza,
It sounds like you have two problems here. One is that your child is learning bad words, and you don't know where he is getting them. Can I ask how old your child it? At a certain age, kids learn that saying "bad" words gets a reaction from adults, even though they don't know what these words mean, or why they are "bad." It's possible that your child is merely going through this phase. The second problem is that your child seems to be having bad dreams or night-time fears.  I would suggest that you consult with a professional about this if you feel that your child is suffering from his visits by the mean man.
Good luck!
> 60 days ago

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