(I'm sorry for the repost. I tried to edit the original for paragraph spacing and all the text disappeared, without giving me the option of reediting. So here it goes again.)
My 2.5 year old daughter gets very chatty when it's time for bed, and last night, after being tucked in, she said "I see the man," which initially just sounded a little creepy. After I asked what man she was seeing she said "the man without shirt or pants," which I then found absolutely terrifying.
I asked her some open questions and she said the man was from the jungle, that she trapped him because he was running away, that he chased animals, that she saw him in my mother-in-law's neighborhood, and that one of her friends from daycare (who has never been at my mother-in-law's) saw him too. From her tone, the details, and the way she progressed the story I believe it was entirely made up. I asked her if this was a made-up story and she said yes, but when we went over examples of real vs made-up stories it was clear that she still doesn't really grasp those concepts.
I still told her daycare teacher and my mom about it and asked if anybody had been there or if they had seen Tarzan or any character in a loincloth, which I assume is where she got it from, and they denied it. I'll also ask my mother-in-law about it when I see her this evening, but there is no chance anything would've happened there.
So I'm calm and certain that she's never really been around a "man without shirt or pants," but this isn't the first time that she has made up stories, and some of those stories have been about real people, usually her daycare friends, usually about them misbehaving. I'm worried she's going to get someone in trouble someday, or that she'll eventually have to report something real that people won't take seriously. I'm just planning to continue stressing that she can tell us anything she wants and keep working on the difference between real and made-up stories.
Has anybody else been scared by their kids' made up stories? How do you teach your toddlers about truth, stories, and lies?