I’m so glad she’s only 11, AND she has a therapist.
I can understand how upsetting this must be for you, but my impression is that this story is going to have a happy ending… she’s going to grow out of this phase. Yes, she’s probably doing it for attention or to create an alternate reality or something like that, because she’s unhappy about her real life for one reason or another. Abandonment feelings sounds completely plausible.
That said, there’s no reason to prolong it or encourage this phase. You definitely do want her to grow out of it, and really understand why it is wrong (even if her lie is not caught right away). A pathologically lying adult is a big problem to herself and anyone she’s in contact with.
I would do a few things, as a parental united front with your DH:
– Sit her down and let her know how very, very much you both love her and that nothing can ever, ever change that, she’s your little girl for life no matter what… and… that you’ve both noticed that she’s had a lying problem lately and you are both are very worried.
– Explain the importance of honesty and trustworthiness. Explain how upset and hurt you feel when she says something now and you can’t just assume it to be true, you have to worry that it is a lie. Really emphasize how this hurts you and DH and how much you want things to go back to how they were before, where whatever daughter says, you simply know that it’s true.
-Tell her that trust is like a flower plant so every day that she is honest it grows back a little bit more, and if she keeps at it, it will be blossoming, but every time she lies, it cuts off a piece of that plant. Explain to her that the plant never dies because the “seed of truth” is always there under the soil, but nobody can see that beautiful flower when the person is always lying, because they’ve cut the plant down so small it’s invisible! However, the flower can always grow back if the person is very careful to be honest instead. A big, beautiful flower is a wonder to behold and everyone flocks to it, to be bathed in the incomparable beauty of truth (the goal is to explain to her how it takes time to build up trust, and how important trust is socially, while never instilling the fear in her that she “is bad” and/or it’s “too late” to fix it).
– From now on, both of you have to (calmly, always in a gentle teaching voice) call her on anything that might be a lie. “Is that really true?” “This is not a lie, is it?” …if you see in her face right away that it is a lie, quickly remind her “Let’s not cut off that flower’s leaf! Let’s grow that flower instead. What is the seed of truth?” (I’d go to town with the flower analogy because it’s positive, concrete and not personal).
– Remind her of the flower analogy every time you see a flower, especially when she’s had a good day. “Look at that flower, bigger than the others. I think that’s like your truth flower! Last month it would have been like those little ones but now, look how big it is already! It’s hard work isn’t it? But you’re doing it, and I’m so proud of you!” Maybe even consider flower-themed rewards.
If she hates flowers this won’t work, but most little girls love flowers so I hope it’s a good fit for her 🙂
Hope this helps!