Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Why Kids Like Dark . . .

. . . and their parents don't. In terms of imagination and creativity that is. I will not even break the surface of this topic here, but as both a parent and a teacher, my thinking has evolved over the years.

"Why do kids like dark? Because it's cool!" My ten-year-old said. Duh, mom. (And I am the mom who let him watch the Spiderman movie for the first time only recently.)

If I have a violent dream, does that necessarily mean that I'm violent?

Is Stephen King a twisted criminal, just because he writes horror? Are we for reading it?

If I like stories about vampires, does that mean I want to be one? Or that I want to give my power away?

(I hope you're saying"no". Otherwise, stop reading. Or no, keep reading! Maybe I'll change your mind.)

I work with kids on their writing, and I have found that many kids aged 10 to 18 really love exploring dark topics and emotional complexity. Sometimes to their parents discomfort, and oh how I understand!

One of our Writopia interns, a bright sophomore at Beacon high school, put it to me this way: "If I explore writing about something really dark like suicide, it doesn't mean I want to commit suicide. It just means that I'm trying to wrap my head around something very confusing and I'm trying to make sense of it in my writing."

But give a piece with those issues to a parent and their response might be one of alarm. Meg, my mentee, also had some interesting things to say on this topic. "Parents live in the real world - when you have a kid, you become hyper conscious of everything that could go wrong. Kids aren't in the real world as much." Kids are more able to live in their imagination, but have to learn to harness it, and writing is an excellent tool for something as wild and untamable as the creative mind.

Kids are exposed every where they turn in books, TV and movies to dark topics, and they are excited about this - they are excited to explore how they feel and think about the world. Two truisms about kids and writing collide:

1: Writing is a cathartic experience.
2: Kids love drama and conflict. They love to see how other people make mistakes and work things out. Or don't. "Darkness is the easiest path to drama," Meg said. "Things are less scary when you make up your own stories about it."

A piece of writing alone is not indicative of an emotional trouble, but we all need to be aware of the symptoms of depression. (Click on this website for more information: Keep Kids Healthy.) As a child who wrote and experienced depression herself, I am sensitive to this issue. Indeed, it set me on a path in my early 20's to become a drama therapist, wanting to better understand the nuances of my own psychology as well as a thirst to help others process things in a creative way, using narrative, whether it's through drama or writing, as a means of finding ourselves.


  1. I love this post - I've read it several times. My little guy is 6 years old, and he loves monsters and all things scary. He hasn't seen anything scarier than Scooby Doo so far, but your words help me understand that I don't need to worry too much about these explorations. :)

  2. Your comment means a lot to me, Rebecca! I'm so glad that this post soothed some of those worries!

  3. Good post. It's interesting that this post is relevant again this week with that WSJ article about how terrible YA lit is these days. Sheesh.

  4. Thank you Miss Tracy. What hullaballoo over our humanity and the place of art!


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