Monday, April 9, 2012

Existential Depression

I remember vividly a classroom conversation I had on the sixth anniversary of September 11th.  The class was concerned and wanted to talk through why this was a significant and important date.  Why does this instance stand out so much to me?  

That year, I was teaching kindergarten.  This conversation was with a group of five year olds.  Not only were they young to be bearing the weight of such heavy concerns- they were not even born when this terrible event took place!

I share this story to highlight the reality of existential depression in gifted children.  Existential depression is a very valid concern for parents of gifted children which can strike as young as preschool.  Gifted children sense and feel things more deeply than their age-level counterparts.  While many young children are concerned about toys, sports, and friendships the gifted child is weighed down by third world poverty, homelessness, and abandoned animals.  They are burdened by the magnitude of the world's challenges, and realize at a young age that there are matters far beyond their control.

When gifted children bring up their concerns, many adults (as well as their peers) dismiss their concerns or minimize them.  This only exacerbates their feelings of isolation and helplessness.   The gifted child facing existential depression now feels as if they are alone in a world that they feel powerless to change.  That is a heavy pressure for an eight-year-old to cope with on their own.

How to Help Your Child Deal with Existential Depression

Acknowledge their concern

We all want to feel that our voices are being heard.  When your child brings up their concerns, do not diminish them.  Be forthright and open in explaining the details as you know them, or work together to discover more on the issue.  While you may be tempted to make light or sugarcoat the issue, your child will see through you.  Try to be as candid as possible while maintaining age-appropriateness as well.  You may not feel ready to have such deep and adult conversations with your child.  In addition, your child wants to talk about what they are seeing and experiencing.  If you don't talk to your children, someone else will.   This is a chance to forge a bond and build trust in your relationship with your child.  Don't miss this critical opportunity.

Work together for change
One person can make a difference, no matter how young.  The best cure for your child's feelings of helplessness is to find a way to help.  If your child is concerned about the homeless, volunteer as a family at a local soup kitchen.  One beautiful characteristic of youth is a boundless optimism.  While adults have become cynical over time, children are not paralyzed by it.  They believe in their ability to bring about change- and you can help them!

Teach your child how to communicate effectively
Simply engaging in conversation can be cathartic for your child.  Many times, having a simple conversation where they are able to discuss how they are feeling and why, can help your child to process their emotions. 

Help your child learn to journal
Parents need to make sure that their emotional child is not bottling up their emotions.  Even if you don't feel comfortable having these conversations, your child needs a way to express and release their feelings.  A journal can be a powerful tool.  Children can learn to write or draw as a way to free his or herself from the weight of their concerns.  



  1. The key thing to remember is that kids can have a tougher time dealing with depression or stress. It's best to help them as early as possible. If all else fails, there's always something like therapy clapham sessions to fall back on.

  2. Taking your kid in for some chiropractic treatments might be a good idea. If it works for adult stress and depression, it should theoretically also work for children.

  3. Communication has always been a key factor in all medical interventions; doctors can only save seriously ill patients if the later opened up. Same goes for kids suffering from depression; parents have to listen to their children, and initiate communication with them if ever they notice that something is awry.

  4. I had this experience over the last two nights with my 8 year-old son. He was very upset about the possibility that he was the only human in a world full of human looking robots. I encouraged him to create a hypothesis stating what he thought was most likely to be true--humans are really robots or humans are really human. he chose humans are really humans. Then I asked him to find evidence to support his hypothesis. We talked for an hour about the fact that robots can't create other robots, that robot brains can't think like human, that he had seen human blood come out of other people, etc. He said our talk made his worry go away. It came back the next night, and we did it again, and it worked again. We'll see what happens tonight! Anyway, I've just discovered this blog, and love it. Thanks for the timely post on this issue. I was just wondering out this very issue.


I love to hear your feedback! This website is intended to be a welcoming and safe space for parents and advocates of the gifted. All wholesome and encouraging questions are invited, as well as questions or concerns relating to gifted topics.