QUESTION: My 3-year-old son keeps mentioning in his playtime (with action figures and such) that his mommy loves him and his daddy loves him but “not Wes” (my boyfriend). His father and I haven’t been together since he was 1 1/2 and that will never happen again. My boyfriend isn’t mean to him and they do lots of fun activities together. My boyfriend loves my son and tells him so daily. My son says he loves him back but then says things like that. My boyfriend is convinced my son hates him. It’s sad and frustrating to him. Why does my son say these things? What can I do about it? Are there psychologists he can see at this young age or something I can do to help him?
DR. RAMIREZ’ ADVICE: Young children (3-years-old) can often use harsh words without knowing the true meaning of those words. This frequently happens when they are playing and as they are trying to learn and express their feelings. Therefore, I would not conclude that he hates your boyfriend but it would be good to know how he truly feels.
On the other hand, divorce or separation from the biological parents can create confusion and conflicting emotions in children. It is appropriate to consult with a psychotherapist in this case. A psychotherapist can be a Psychologist or a Marriage and Family Therapist. They both can see your 3-year-old son to make sure that he is appropriately adjusted to his new family.
If necessary, the psychotherapist can also do family sessions to help integrate all members in the family and help resolve any negative feelings. You may want to consider looking for a psychotherapist who specializes in children and perhaps utilizes techniques such as -play therapy- as it can be very helpful in working with young children.
Thank you for your question. I hope this is helpful.
Dr. Georgina Ramirez
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