Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have another kid under their roof: daughter Shiloh's imaginary friend Amy.
Reportedly two-year-old Shiloh's best friend is a make-believe little girl. "Shiloh says she likes Amy more than Knox and Viv," says a source close to Brangelina. And during dinner, Shiloh pushes away her plate and says, "Amy's not hungry." And although Brad and Angie have tried to reason with their daughter, Shiloh insists Amy is real.
Is this typical, or is it a Hollywood kid thing?
"It's totally normal for children ages three and four to have imaginary friends," says child psychologist Fran Walfish, Psy.D. "Often times kids invent a pretend playmate because they don't know how to relate to their parents – or their parents can't relate to them – so they create a 'friend' who understands them unconditionally."
According to Walfish, not only are imaginary friends a normal stage of development, it's also common for kids to create playmates when they feel lonely. In large and busy families where communication is scarce, a child may conjure up a buddy to keep them company or to comfort them when they're upset. In other words, a child may pretend -- or create -- someone who understands them.Another reason kids invent friends is to avoid accountability. In Shiloh's case, pushing away her plate and saying "Amy's not hungry" is likely her way of expressing that she doesn't want to eat. "A child may fear his parents will be angry if he tells them how he feels, so he might say, 'So and so made me do it' or 'So and so wants a cookie,'" Walfish says.
And although parents shouldn't insist their child's imaginary friend is, well, imaginary, Walfish says that it is OK to say something like, "I know Amy says she's not hungry and it's OK that Amy's here, but you can always tell me anything that's on your mind."
That said, there are times when parents should be concerned about their child's imaginary friend. For example, does your child believe his imaginary friend is real? Does he assume the personality traits of his imaginary friend? According to Walfish, if your child believes he and his imaginary friend are one person, it may be time to have a talk.
It's also important to gauge how healthy your kid's relationship with his imaginary friend is. For example, ask questions like, "Does your friend play nice?" If the answer is no, your kid may be harboring low self-esteem and expressing it through his imaginary playmate.
Finally, remember this: Just like anything else, intuition is crucial in sussing out a healthy situation, so use your parental gut. Chances are, your child is just expressing his new-found creativity.
Does your child have an imaginary friend? Did you?