Q. Do children go through periods of being out of touch with reality? My 7-year-old daughter has been telling some "tall tales" lately, in an effort, I suspect, to be accepted by her peers and by me.
I am wary of calling her on her untruths, but I want her to know in some way that I'm aware, but still love her just the same. (They're not malicious stories.)
A. Seven-year-olds are such lambs. They weep, they mope, they shine and why not?
Nobody loves them. Nobody cares. If teachers graded gloom, they would get A's. This doesn't happen all the time, of course, nor does it always strike at 7. Sometimes it hits at 6, sometimes at 8. Sometimes it's disguised and comes out in other ways.
This not only is a great age for self-pity but for buying affection--with money, with presents, with goody-goody behavior -- with tall tales. It is the need, as you say, to be accepted. And you can see why.
Your daughter is an old-timer at school. Nobody is making a fuss over her any more. She knows how to read. The second grade is the same as the first, only harder. Everything is slowing. In the past seven years she learned to walk and talk and run and hop and bike. Now she just learns to do them better. She also absorbed information lickety-split, but at 7 it is more labored, less spontaneous. She still is eager to learn, but some of her methods have changed.
As much as your daughter wants to use all her senses and her creativity to learn, she now needs rote work to organize the material in her mind. This is the age when the spirit of collecting begins to take hold and patterns become so important. And to tell the truth, it's why she may seem a little boring to herself. It's one more reason she needs to tell those tall tales.
Fortunately, parents are blessed. They may be bored occasionally but they never stop loving.
And this, as you say, is what you need to get across to your child, so she won't make up stories to impress you, or anyone else.
You do it best by being direct, with a serious, bedtime talk in the dark, telling her how much she means to you--and that she doesn't need to win your love with tall tales or anything else.
And after that you ignore the stories you hear her tell her friends. You wouldn't want to embarrass her. When she spins a yarn for you, however, stop her with a smile and a hug, or roll your eyes or wink, just as you did when she shot you a whopper at 4. And then tell her that she is so imaginative, she should make it into a short story. With that you give your fledgling writer a pen and one of those beautiful books of empty pages--the kind sold in area bookstores--so she can write it down.
When you help your child turn a potential problem into a constructive act you let her give her self-esteem a big boost. And you both learn to take a bag of lemons and make lemonade.