Child Goth - Problem With Death and Dying?
anonymous Asks ...
My 15 year old son is a punk/goth and he is obsessed with death and dying. No one he knows has died since he was a small boy and he lost his last grandparent so I do not know what has sparked this obsession. He even has saved pictures of dead people on his phone. He talks about death all the time. I thought is was just for shock value but it getting really unsettling. When I have broached the subject with him he says it is I who has the problem and that I am scared of death and it’s a normal part of life that we shouldn’t be so afraid of. This has been going on for 6 months or so. I basically think it’s just a phase that he will go through on his own but the pictures of death scare me and I am not sure if I am supposed to do something. Should I make him talk to someone about this?
Rev. Christopher Smith Says ...
An earlier response to this question seems to have not been saved - my apologies to the person with the question.
There are a number of factors that the question does not talk about that may affect the answer, so the person asking the question may want to get a consult from someone who can take those into consideration, but here are a few things to think about.
When an approximately six month time period is considered as to when the child's focus on death and dying began there were prominent stories in the news about death and dying. These stories were very powerful and affected lots of people, including many children because of the death of children being a key component. This theme is perpetuated in our news as we continue to hear of incidents over that six months that brings death to the forefront. These can be as important of an influence for a child or adolescent as the death of someone near to them. During this time, you may have asked questions about death, the meaning of life and why these people had to die. It is natural for a child or adolescent to ask the same sort of questions.
The description is of a child who you see as obsessed with death in terms of things that he does as well as in his speech. Are there any indications in any of these that your son may be having suicidal, self-harm or homicidal thoughts? These would be a concern. If he does not, what thoughts are he expressing within his speech and actions? He is of an age where children often question the spirituality and religion that they were raised within and explore spiritual questions. This could be manifest as part of this.
You describe your son as stating that you are scared of death. Is he correct? This would be natural but also will add to why this is difficult for you. There are a number of source within writings around the goth culture that speak to misunderstandings that arise when different viewpoints are projected onto the culture and people in it (see for example http://ultimategothguide.blogspot.com/2012/07/anti-goth-grant.html). If this is where the core of the issue is and he is simply exploring something developmentally, then forcing him to talk about it and labeling it as "wrong" or "abnormal" could be harmful. If the obsession has harmful elements within it, it could be helpful for him to talk with someone. Another first step, might be for you to have someone you can talk to who will be able to guide you about the difficult challenges that come with parenting and who may be able to help you with your interactions in your family.
The good news is that in the midst of this, it is possible to move forward so that you and him both experience a new sense of wholeness and peace.
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