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ADVICE: Dear Angel

Our son, Clem, who is fifteen years old is our only child. My wife and I transferred him to public high school for his freshman year because we thought it would prepare him better for the real world of college. Previously, he was in small private schools, some church run, since he was three years old. The first few months of public school were uneventful and then he started talking about strange races of people who he explained were tribes in video games that "all" the guys were playing. Then a more serious change occurred.


Now, my wife and I are locking our bedroom door, afraid that his terror(?) of us might lead him to strike us first.

He started wearing all black clothing, saying it was the "in" thing. He was thin but muscular but then he started dieting as he felt he was too fat. Before he was flat bellied, now he is concave. He is very proud of his new emaciation and points it out to all our family and friends, seeking compliments from aghast people.

Then came the black fingernail polish and sometime later the black lipstick and then later still the black eye liner.

We thought we had reached bottom when he took his birthday money and had a stud put in his lower lip. But then my mother, with whom he was always close, called me and said that Clem had confided in her that we, my wife and I, were demons and the church we attend, only irregularly, was a coven and the whole group of us was trying to kill him.

Mom thought he was kidding, at first, but eventually decided, after much questioning of Clem, that he was absolutely serious.

He had taken to locking his bedroom door at night apparently out of fear of us stealing him away in the night to our coven for sacrifice. Now, my wife and I are locking our bedroom door, afraid that his terror (?) of us might lead him to strike us first. We have read those newspaper stories about good kids who suddenly kill their parents and we afraid of this stranger in our home.

Should we take him out of public school? Talk to his friends' parents? What should we do?

Lost Parents

Dear Lost,

You could have an extremely serious problem or he could just be pulling everyone's strings for attention. He may be unhappy about his move to public school and is punishing you and your wife until you relent and send him back to private school.

By all means, talk to his friends' parents and see if they are having the same strange change. If they don't see their child with the black nail polish, the black lipstick, the black eyeliner, the lip stud, the starvation diet and the parent/coven threat, then Clem may just be yanking your chain.

But rather than err on the side of too much permissiveness, you should find a good psychiatrist or psychotherapist who specializes in teenage boys. Make Clem's continued residence in your home (rather than, say, a military academy or one of those ranches for truant teenagers) dependent on attending sessions with you two and by himself. The therapist should be able to advise you in short order whether his condition is psychotic, neurotic or despotic .

Your son definitely needs your help. Don't under react as you seem to so far but don't over react until an expert has examined him.

Please don't dawdle.

Angel

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The Number Forty

The number forty is used in several Biblical stories to signify a long period of time or severity of punishment:

The best-known example is in the story of the Great Flood, which continues for forty days and forty nights.

Under the leadership of Moses, the people of Israel wander in the wilderness for forty years.

The book of Deuteronomy tells us that those who broke the law could be punished by no more than forty lashes.

After his baptism, Jesus spends forty days and forty nights in the wilderness, where he is tempted by the devil.

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