I have always been fascinated with storytelling. Whether it be writing miniature plays for me and my siblings to act out, to conducting faux interviews in my head as-if I was famous, to even writing short stories, the power to write and share information has always been something I’ve been passionate about.
As a child, there was always a consistent pattern in my stories. Besides the horrid writing, jagged plot structures and no real sense of grammar (keep in my mind I was still vastly uneducated), my stories often contain dark violence -- including death. Since I struggled to conceptualize actual characters and distinct characteristics for each, often times my characters would be real people I knew such as family, friends, celebrities and religious figures. Several of those people (including one story with Satan) were killed.
While there is no denying that morbidity coming from a child can be off-putting, I think it’s something that no parent should really fear. If you come across a story from a child that is “unnaturally” dark for their age-range, do not shame them and constrict their creative abilities. Instead, implore their minds and understand what they found so fascinating about their story to include murder, death, etc.
While it can be scary to have those conversations with children so young, it’s imperative you leave it as open and honest as possible. The reality is that these are actual things that happen in this world, and preventing your kid from exploring it in their creative manner, yields their understanding of the concept in general.
Frankly, my parents did a phenomenal job at accepting my dark-storytelling as a kid. They were never ashamed for what I wrote. Instead, they coached my on grammar, connecting loose story-lines and taught me how to push myself to be a better writer. I never once felt like I couldn’t express my thoughts and desires for my characters. I felt the liberation and freedom of writing what I want. It was that feeling that kept me so passionate about writing, because in the real world, you often have to follow stricter social guidelines to seem acceptable.
If you come across a violence-driven story from a kid, do not label them as pre-stages of being a psychopath, or see if they’re mentally ill. Again, these are painful realities of our existence and letting kids explore these dark themes in their own way can help them cope with that. Read what they’re writing, and not criticize. You know children better than they know themselves sometimes, and you can gauge what they think death is or isn’t. My stories often contained imagery of heaven, ghosts and death was never a terrible fate to have. Those religious undertones helped solidify my faith growing up -- and made me stray away from fearing death. Had my parents stopped me from writing those dark stories, I honestly think my mind would have been sheltered and made my life a lot more scary at this point.
There is no denying that a line exists. If a child starts to express these dark fantasies they create in real life, or their stories are more bleak than positive, than you must be proactive as a parent to make sure everything is alright. Mental illness is something to be detected early and get help for. If children are writing self-harm stories, ask them why they write it. Oftentimes you can really hear someone’s voice in their writing. Writing has greater access to how someone’s mind works more often than their spoken words.
However, if you come across a single story or two of a child writing about death or violence, don’t stress or fray. It’s a natural thing for kids to be curious about and explore in their mind. Art, writing, singing and any form of self-expression helps kids cope with the world just as much as adults do the same. Don’t constrict their writing content. Instead, foster a positive environment and push them to write about a wider array of subjects. Darkness does not equal a bad kid. Darkness does not mean there is something to inherently worry about.
Let your kids be kids, and let the writers be writers.