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    Joined: Jun 2015
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    LazyMum Offline OP
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    What do you tell your sensitive little ones when they cry that they don't want to grow up?

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    Or, worse, that she doesn't "want to die" (at 5)

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    I have one of them. He doesn't like change in general so I think it is just part of that. Most kids have a point when they realise they can die and get scared but gifted kids can be a bit younger.

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    LazyMum Offline OP
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    She's woken up happy, so I won't bring it up until the next time the melancholy takes her, then I'll try to find out if there's anything specific. But I was like that at her age (and still am), and it was straight up inexorable march of time stuff. It's the sort of terrifying, aching, existential gap that religion might fill, if we were religious, but we're not.

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    LazyMum Offline OP
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    Interesting Portia. Maybe instead of shying away from the issue I should talk to her about it on a deeper level and take the same approach, showing her how people around the world deal with the gap. Thanks smile

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    I found that at times of existential crises, lying helped. And was the only thing that did. Yes, we, as parents, would. make sure not to die, and we’d make sure our kids wouldn’t either. People only die when they are very very old, much older than anyone they knew. Yes, they could live with us forever. Yes, we would make sure we’d live and die together, and they’d never be alone.
    By the time they are old enough to understand it was all lies, hopefully they are old enough to understand why you did it. If not, you’ve got bigger problems.

    I first read it here, when my two year old freaked out about what is, unless you have learned to repress and distract yourself from these thoughts, ohectvely a very scary thing about life you have to understand. I want to credit Ultramarina with coming up with this, but it was a long time ago...

    Last edited by Tigerle; 11/03/18 12:58 PM.
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    Great approach to the existential issue, Portia. smile

    James T. Webb, PhD wrote these articles which may be of interest:
    - Existential Depression in Gifted Individuals
    - Dabrowski’s Theory and Existential Depression in Gifted Children and Adults.

    Here is an old post that touches on not growing up.

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    Maybe read Peter Pan out loud and have discussions about it?

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    Thanks everyone. Tigerle, I think you've nailed it. Truly, I think this is the only/best option we have. I tried it yesterday when the topic came up again, and it nearly went sideways, but worked in the end. I said scientists were working on it, she wanted to know how soon they'd be finished because she didn't want to get older than 9. Then she wanted to know how they were going to do it. I mentioned making clones but that freaked her out, and so did talking about brain mapping/AI, cryogenics, etc., so then eventually I just made up some nonsense about telomeres that sounded sciencey and she was happy with that. Phew! I hope it works for a few years. Fingers crossed!

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    DS ever since a young a child has been adamant about not wanting to grow up. When the time came, he was equally horrified at the idea of becoming a teen. As a child, I just couldn't grow up fast enough, so this was utterly alien for me. The adults had all the freedom and independence and choices, and who wouldn't desperately want that?

    Well, not DS, as it turns out. Looking back, a couple of thoughts. One, he struggles terribly with choices, still. Little, daily decisions paralyze him with anxiety. Two, he's fought against independence every day of his life. His little sister walked him to school/ activities - there's no way he wanted to do, well, almost anything, "all by myself". He'd still have me dress him, if he could. Three, inattentive ADHD off the charts; he's extremely young for his age behaviourally, emotionally, socially as well as in executive function. Super sensitive and intense. And yet long before he could even speak, observing all, missing not a word spoken by any adult within 100 feet (not an exaggeration), and (only slight older) ravenously consuming media like Bloom County and xkcd. Awareness, perception, input way old for his age, but coping skills way young. Tough combo.

    And big speculation, but I really wonder if the main, overwhelming issue is a mind way too perceptive to cope with what it's capable of perceiving. He can see the bad parts of growing up in ways typical kids are happily oblivious. Adults are always talking up the glories of becoming a "big kid", but if independence and responsibility and choices already stress you to pieces, and you can see that getting big, growing up and adulthood are all that, and no play to boot, why would you want that? He could see all too clearly what adulthood looked like, and he wanted none it.

    Some of the things I did were to make sure I talked a lot and very explicitly about the ways the benefits and privileges of each new and upcoming age balanced the increased responsibilities. He thought adulthood looked awful, so I talked about the ways I "played", and tried to help him understand that I did in fact still play, it's just that the things I really enjoyed doing at this stage of my life were quite different than his. I found joy in different things - but he needed to see that joy was part of my life. I think this helped.

    He went through some brutal existential depression around 11ish. Reading the comments above, I'm realizing that it too may stem from similar kinds of thought patterns - i.e. able to see far more than he has the capacity to cope with. He is able to perceive too much about the way the world works and his (insignificant) role in it. He can see the utter futility of school and feel his life seeping away, while other kids just complain about being bored and make typical kids jokes about teachers. Most kids live in the now, so the parts of now that suck are ephemeral. But for a kid who can extrapolate into the future, what they see can feel horrifying. To help cope with the specific ways his existential depression manifested, I tried to give him a sense of control, and of accomplishment (really hard in a system that aggressively refuses to accelerate). In that moment, he needed to not just *do* math, but achieve some kind of credential, a moving forward/ checking off a box that felt like he was getting somewhere, and not just endlessly spinning circles in the sludgy whirlpool which is spiral math curriculum. Strongly recommend the Dabrowski article. It helped me a lot as my mind works really differently from his, and well described much of what he seemed to be going through.

    So don't know if your kid looks anything remotely like this, but looking back from 14.5, this is what is starting to gather in my hindsight.

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    LazyMum Offline OP
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    Thanks Platypus101. For me the problem isn't trying to better understand how DD5 feels, it's that there is no response I can give her that will fix it the unfixable - that life is meaningless, time is relative, and even though she's got 100 years of living to look forward to, it will pass, and once it's passed it will be as if it never happened. I've been dealing with the same feelings since I was a kid. I read the Dabrowski article, it wasn't anything new to me. The way I deal with it is pretty basic: I believe that being alive is better than being dead. So, the best thing to do is to enjoy what you can while you're here and keep yourself distracted from the existential questioning. But talking about the joys and freedoms of adulthood isn't going to fix things. I don't want to lay my nihilistic outlook on her just yet, so I think lying about death might be the way to go here. At least for a while, until she's old enough to develop her own philosophy on life, or discover religion, or boys or something else that keeps her distracted...

    Last edited by LazyMum; 11/05/18 09:13 AM.
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    It sounds like this is a really tough space for you to lead your daughter through, given your feelings are much the same as hers. Sending hugs to get through this, and hope the wise folk on this board can offer some suggestions of how to channel your intimate knowledge of the challenges to settle/ pre-empt some of your DD's worst fears. I found my son's existential depression terrifying; I can't even imagine what it feels like to experience it. Your description is very like his: "that life is meaningless, time is relative, and even though she's got 100 years of living to look forward to, it will pass, and once it's passed it will be as if it never happened".

    And yet. There is a fundamental contradiction between that nihilist view, and what you say next:
    Originally Posted by LazyMum
    I believe that being alive is better than being dead.

    Taking as given that I have no idea what I am talking about, still I'd say: this is your key. Why? And how? It may be way harder to see that side - what makes life worth living despite it all. Can you share some of those reasons with your DD? Specific, real examples of why you feel better off alive? And (what seemed critical for us, at least), some concrete steps that would increase her sense of having some control over getting to those things/ states of being that make life worth living?


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    LazyMum Offline OP
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    Originally Posted by Platypus101
    And yet. There is a fundamental contradiction between that nihilist view, and what you say next:
    Originally Posted by LazyMum
    I believe that being alive is better than being dead.

    No contradiction here Platypus - things don't have to be meaningful to be enjoyable! smile I'd rather be here, doing all the fun stuff you can do while you're alive, even with the knowledge that it will come to nothing, mean nothing and be remembered by no one within a generation or two, than be gone already. All the fun stuff is really cool! It doesn't make the meaninglessness and brevity less terrifying, but it makes me happy at the same time. Which sounds odd, but imagine if your parent passed away within days of your child being declared in remission, and the different feelings that would generate - all those different, deep, contradictory emotions, all at the same time. So yeah, I'm terrified, I'm sorrowful, I'm happy, I love life. It's a crazy mix! But I don't want to freak my daughter out by throwing her in the deep end of all those big feelings just yet. I think it would just be too much for her. Lying works for me, for now wink

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    Originally Posted by LazyMum
    I'd rather be here, doing all the fun stuff you can do while you're alive, even with the knowledge that it will come to nothing, mean nothing and be remembered by no one within a generation or two, than be gone already.
    This sums up the book of Ecclesiastes (from the bible). Whether read as "literature" or as a faith guide, in whole or in part, some may find comfort in seeing that they are not alone in their existential thought journey but that similar sentiments were jotted more than 2,000 years ago. Many translations can be accessed and read online.

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    Hi, LazyMum. I have also experienced bouts of existential depression since I was very young (about 3, I think). Since you've been through it yourself I imagine you can already guess what might be triggering this crisis, how she might feel and how to help her cope over the years.

    When I reflect as an adult about what scared me when I was a child I think that my fear was partially due to:
    -I could not imagine what being dead is like, so I always though of it as being alone, in the dark... and alive.
    -I understood that as I was growing up my parents were growing older, and I felt guilty and sad.
    -I realized that my parents missed the times when I was little, and I felt painfully sorry for them.
    -I didn’t like change and was afraid of the future.

    So maybe you could explore how she thinks being dead is like, and also make death less of a tabu: try to make jokes about it, make it a household item so that it doesn’t look so scary.

    Also, reassure her that you are happy that she is growing up and that you look forward to the future. I love reading science and technology stuff and imaginig how new developments might make our lives better, so that the march of time has at least a silver lining.

    Last edited by Isabel; 11/08/18 06:21 AM.
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    Thank you, posters, for providing a good therapy session here, for both my child and me. We deal with existential questions and contemplation misery at my house too.

    My DS10, at age 6, got teary-eyed while hugging me and said he does that sometimes because he knows he won't always be able to hug me. He collapsed in tears after reading his preschool handprint poem, which he found in a keepsake box, because he won't ever be that little again. I'm the one who's supposed to be crying over that, not him! (And I do, of course.) He struggles with simple decisions, as another poster mentioned here, because he cannot bear the loss of the other opportunity, or loss of time to do one thing that comes with choosing another. He struggles to enjoy his pets because he cannot ever forget that someday they will die too, and he is living that misery, mourning them before they are gone. There is the old "Nothing we do matters if we die anyway" but also sometimes "I guess if we only get one chance, we should enjoy it" and the vacillating back and forth creates its own emotional yo-yo. So much good advice here, and it helps a lot to know that we are not alone in this struggle.

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