guilt trip or more serious?

I'm having an issue with my 6 yr old that I'm not sure what to do with. He has a penchant for drama, and can be quite a bit like a teen girl with pms when he's tired. Hes also very smart and can be manipulative, and is very intense so that everything he feels and does is to the tenth degree.

Lately when he's been getting into trouble and is sitting in his bedroom or in time out, I'll hear him saying, "I want to die, I want to die…" over and over again, loud enough for the whole house to hear. Sometimes I'll address it and sometimes I'll let it go, depending on the situation.

Last night when I was putting him to bed he said, "You know the other day when I said, 'I want to die, I want to die..'? Well, I'm sorry, but I still want to leave this house because I think you're not being a good family for me." I try to take that sort of thing very seriously instead of just getting upset or brushing it off. But I couldn't tell if he was planting a guilt trip or if he was really serious, so I asked him if he meant what he said, or if he was trying to make Mommy feel bad. He immediately grew this huge smile, and started giggling, but didn't back down on what he was saying.

So instead of treating it as a kid who wants to die or feels like his family is bad for him, I decided to just reassure him about his place in our family. I told him I love him with everything in me, that my heart would break if he went away or died, and that we're part of a family so that means that sometimes we like being around each other and sometimes we don't, but even when we're frustrated with eachother, deep down we still love each other and stick together. He did calm down after that but still had a difficult time settling for the night (not like him) until I went in and gave him some extra cuddle time.

The problem is that I just don't know if he's laying a guilt trip, or if he's actually feeling some of that. I worry that its a true emotion, and that it will turn into a suicidal tendency 10 years down the road. I also am not sure what to do with the "you're not a good family for me" thing, as we don't play favorites and we both really love and admire him for the very intense and unique person that he is, and try to cultivate his strengths and encourage him to be exactly who he is. This is murky water for me.
Any thoughts or suggestions?

Hi Carmen,
You spend much time on the website reassuring people that some of the things they're going through are quite common. Oh, how easy it can be for some of us when we stand objectively. It's very easy to over-think when it's our own kids because we constantly want to get it right on such serious issues being raised like yours.

Let me reassure you the steps you took validated you hearing your son. Explaining his importance in the family confirmed your ongoing commitment. However, when he giggled, he gave himself away because that was when he realized he had pulled that heart string.

Yes, young children can be very manipulative and as a parent we have to read between the lines and watch the language that isn't verbal. Kids say the most penetrating of things without fully understanding the true impact they make in any true sense. "You're not a good family for me" is one I've heard more than I'd like to declare, so please don't spend your time worrying about the next 10 years. Concentrate on the moments you have now. This is a learning curve in recognizing comments that are made and how we should receive them with a grain of salt at times.

Warmest Regards, Jo
P.S. Don't forget that being pregnant will have your emotions temperamental right now too!

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