Recently a parent mentioned that her son would like to come to visit our boat. It was very embarrassing as we do not have a boat! Apparently my son, who is seven, had lied to friends boasting we have a boat.

I’m sure many parents will have been in the same situation as you found yourself in, but, for the moment, I wouldn’t worry too much.

Blurring lines between fantasy and reality is very common between the ages of about three and seven. This is in fact a very healthy thing. They live in their own creative worlds and are often trying to make sense of the real world through this lens.

Things only become problematic when lying becomes the norm rather than the exception. If this is a one-off and out of character for your son, then putting it down to an uncomfortable experience at the school gates and a quick chat with him to point out that it’s not a good idea to lie is probably all the follow-up this needs. However, if it starts to become a pattern, then I think you need to take it more seriously. He is still young, and children mature at very different rates, so it might be worth looking beyond this one incident just to make sure there is nothing else going on in the background.

For example, is he easily able to form friendships or is this something he struggles with? Navigating social structures can be difficult for some children — they don’t read them well — and his talk of you owning a boat might have been driven by his need to be accepted by a certain group. Your role as the parent is to point out that telling the truth is an important part of being socially accepted and that you have clear rules in your family about this.

Beyond this, I firmly believe it’s good for parents to assess their children’s behaviour as objectively as possible. This is not easy, because that unconditional love factor kicks in, but it is immensely helpful for the child if you can have some degree of detachment in order to see where any problems are cropping up.

To this end, turning detective and asking a few gentle questions about friendships and how your son feels about school and his peers, might give you a clearer picture. This might also require you to have a chat with his teacher about how he’s behaving when you’re not around.

Also read: Smartphone use linked to depression, medical risk in children

Building a child’s self-esteem is also important. Judicious praise is always important, but also bolstering his sense of self and his sense of being part of a strong family unit with strong values will also go a long way to him understanding his own self-worth. Give him responsibilities within the home, share pictures and stories of family and family history and also encourage him to invite one of his friends into your home, so that he can see there is no need to over impress as he can be liked for who he is.

Russell Hemmings is a Dubai-based lifecoach and hypnotherapist. Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to friday@gulfnews.com.