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Boy Has "To Kill" List
Q: I am a mother of a 12-year-old boy and this morning I found some disturbing things. He had a "To Kill" list of about 65 people on it from his school. I also saw a bunch of index cards which were not all filled out, but they had the name of a person and then two boxes: One was "Will Hurt Badly" and the other box to be checked was "Will Die." One of the index cards had his name and the "Will Die" box was checked off. I don't know whether to go to the guidance counselor at school right away or even how to address this problem.
A: This is a troubling discovery. Your son's "Kill List" certainly indicates that he has a lot of anger inside him. His checking off the box "Will Die" next to his own name may indicate that his hurt and sadness are causing him to commit suicide. The fact that he has methodically written 65 kids' names on separate index cards and established a "Hurt Badly" and "Will Die" category for each reveals an obsessive preoccupation with violence and murder.
The many school shootings of the past two years have taught us to pay attention to obvious red flags like your son's kill list. I do not encourage parents to spy on their kids or to search their rooms but in this case I would suggest that you search your son's room and your entire house for any firearms, weapons or bomb-making apparatus.
You must also seek immediate psychological counseling for your son as well as alert your son's school authorities. This must be regarded as an emergency situation. In the wake of the Littleton killings, be prepared for the school administration to suspend your child until mental health professionals deem him not to be a threat to others and to himself.
Your son desperately needs intensive professional help and support. Even if this list is merely a fantasy management of his anger, disappointment, isolation and hurt, he is a very sad, troubled boy who is crying out for help. Well, you have fortunately heard his cry and you will get him the help that he needs. I know that you are probably in a very confused state of panic at this time. Please know that your intervention is needed now. Get some help and support for yourself. Don't try to tough this out alone. Your son's list does not mean that you have failed him as a parent. It means that he has become hopeless in the face of inner torment and that he has not been able to reveal his pain to you or anyone. Now you know his pain. Now he can begin to be healed. I'll keep a good thought for you and your boy. Write me if I may be of any further help or support.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.