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Steven Olsen
Steven Olsen, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1765
Experience:  More than twenty years of expertise in counseling, psychological diagnosis and education
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I have 2 daughters ages 6,7. My ex husband have recently divorced

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I have 2 daughters ages 6,7. My ex husband have recently divorced and he has gotten married again and she has 2 daughtersnthat call him "Daddy". My oldest daughter has started lying about things. Is she trying to get more attention from me or from my ex husband? Do YOu have any suggestions?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Steven Olsen replied 5 years ago.

Lying in a child of seven is usually not the intentional deception that we see in teens and adults.


Instead, the lying is used to reinforce a need. In this case, most likely, it is a need for attention as you suggested.


A child of seven is highly bonded to parental figures, and is greatly influenced by them, especially girls with their fathers. Coming into a newly blended family can be a huge challenge even for much older children, and at the ages of 5-8 years the difficulties can be more pronounced.This is due in part to the fact that a child of this age is not be able to express their feelings as easily as an older child, nor deal with the newness of the situation as easily as a younger child might.


As a result, the 5-7 year old child often turns to attention seeking behaviors. The more extroverted ones cause disruption and the average-introverted group uses passive means, like lying, to gain the attention that they need.


Using punishments is often inappropriate as a full solution as the emotional need will still remain. The behavior may cease, but the pain of the adjustment and the other feelings, including the very powerful feeling of jealously can motivate further problems.


Ideally, your daughter would greatly benefit from seeing a child behavior specialist. The feelings she is facing are difficult, and helping her express them well and in a healthy way is the best practice solution. Considering the complexity of the situation, I would recommend seeing a professional. This person will assist her to label her needs better and to use expression, not lying, as a means to deal with her feelings.


You may also wish to try something less involved, at least at first. A excellent resource is: Redirecting Children's Behavior by Kathryn J. Kvols, Bill Riedler, and Parenting Press (Paperback - Nov 1997)


This book, inexpensive on, is wonderful and gives many ideas in how to reward and reinforce expression of her feelings.


Simply, her feelings need to be explored and expressed about her new family. At her age this is too overwhelming and comes out as attention seeking through lying.


Best solution is to seek support through a child therapist (her pediatrician can make a referral) as she is dealing with overwhelming feelings. Also, this may offer an opportunity for her younger sibling to learn ways to express herself, avoiding the development of any problems before they occur. Steven



Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you for that and I have thought about having them see a child pyschologist.. I guess what worries me the most if that her Daddy doesn't acknowledge them on his weekends when he gets them. They always ask Momma why is it that Daddy doesn't play or do things with us now like he used too? H eonly does what Ms. ?(his new wife) does and pays more attention to her. I don't have the answers for them and not sure how to react about it. I speak to man in my life about it and he tries his best to make up for it with the girls, but on the other hand its not his place to do that. They hate to go to their Daddy's on his weekends. DO you hav any suggestions on what I should say to them.
Expert:  Steven Olsen replied 5 years ago.

This is a painful situation and I guessed that this might have been the case. He is structuring his life around others (his new family) and is leaving out his children from your past relationship.


Although you cannot motivate him to change you can tell him the truthful reality, that his daughters are hurting. This is a vital step as he could minimize much of the damage through a conversation with your daughters. (I am not sure if he will do so or act on any of this, but he should be told about the pain he is causing.)


Also, your girls definitely need to be in counseling. This is not just jealousy but rejection, a far more painful emotion...and one that is damaging to their self esteems.



What can you do?

Continue to tell them that they are loved. Your boyfriend can also reinforce them through his positive actions toward them. (to the degree that he can)


But, most of all, be honest. Let them know that they are valuable and worthwhile but that their dad might not be able to pay attention to them as he once did. This is a sad truth, but it is better than telling them anything that they can see is not so...


And, seek counseling for them. With guidance they will be able to deal with their feelings much better, and the potential harm that may result from this situation will be minimized. Steven



Edited by Steven Olsen on 2/1/2011 at 5:32 PM EST
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Also, my ex husband has a 18 yr old son and he is the same way with him.. The son doesn't have anythignto do with him unless my daughters come for the weekend since we live in a different state that him. He went through the same thing and I don't want my kids to go through life like he is not wanting or having anything to do with their dad. I spoke to his mother and she said it has been real hard to be mom & dad at the same time. Trust me it is.. Thank you for all the information.

Expert:  Steven Olsen replied 5 years ago.
You are welcome. As he is the issue here, and has a pattern of this type of behavior I would go into damage control mode with your daughters. Seek a counselor for them and continue to reinforce their value...

If you found our conversation valuable, please click accept. My pleasure helping you today. Steven
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