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The simple innocence of childhood becomes perplexingly complex, and, in adolescence, even more so. As they grow gradually into young adulthood, they question which values and behaviors they will live by as an adult. Their brightness, sensitivity, and idealism make them likely to ask themselves difficult questions about the nature and purpose of their lives and the lives of others.

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These are not idle questions; these children focus on issues of fairness, wonder how they should live their lives, and want to know the rules of life and of the universe. Quite early in life, bright children develop the capacity for metacognition—thinking about their thinking—often even before they develop the emotional and experiential tools to deal with it successfully. As bright children hear the evening news, they see that the idealistic world does not exist.

Instead there are stories of intolerance, assault, robbery, and murder.

When Bright Kids Become Disillusioned

It is not uncommon to hear reports of people hurting or taking advantage of others. People in positions of trust, such as politicians, clergy, scoutmasters, teachers, and even parents, engage in dishonesty, neglect, or abuse.

We live in a world where many people do not take responsibilities seriously and where there seems to be little concern with quality. Poverty abounds, and the environment is ravaged daily.

So few people seem to care. It is not the idealistic world we try to present to our children.


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And bright children often find that their age peers and even many adults do not share their concerns. As a result, they can become disillusioned and depressed even at a young age. How frequent and how strong are these feelings? A teacher friend described what she observed in her second-grade gifted cluster classroom:. I had three students initiate conversations with me about wanting to die. Some teachers may have been horrified by such disclosures, but I felt more empathy than horror.

As a teacher I felt helpless as to how I could help these children cope with their feelings, since I felt the same way as they did. What is the essential piece of life relationships, family structures, personality characteristics, future life situations that can help them cope with these existential thoughts and steer them toward mental health as opposed to a life filled with depressive thoughts and possible suicide?

There are little children sitting nicely in their desks and at the dinner table who are thinking of killing themselves. They may let these feelings show, or they may keep them hidden. They may tell someone, or they may not.


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  • These feelings can be devastating to a child so young, as she feels there is something wrong with her. She may feel as if her existence is more of a burden on her family than it is a pleasure to experience life. Among bright and caring children, disillusionment is not rare, and it can lead to feelings of despair and aloneness.

    As these individuals examine themselves and their place in the world, they can see how things might be and should be. They start out believing that others share their idealistic concerns, but they end up feeling like Don Quixote, tilting at windmills. Sometimes they are fortunate enough to find a few other idealists, but all too often they feel alone in their struggles. I knew of a kindergarten teacher who invited a behavior modification team into the classroom to help with a boy who asked too many questions, and they were proud when he had learned to ask just one question every hour.

    When Bright Kids Become Disillusioned | National Association for Gifted Children

    Any person who is in a minority group is particularly likely to feel outside of the mainstream and, as a result, is apt to struggle with issues of feeling different, left out, or ostracized—all of which can result in disillusionment. Any member of a minority, whether based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, looking different, or being idealistically concerned with life-purpose issues, is at risk for a minority experience. Being different can lead to feelings of disappointment and a lack of connectedness with others; in other words, being thoughtfully gifted can be a very lonely experience.

    Many people, whether young or old, with such weighty personal concerns are hesitant to share them, fearing that others will see them as bad-mannered or that they will not be understood. And that may, in fact, be the case. You are doing well in school or at work. They are not yet ready to experience the angst that can arise if they begin thinking carefully about their lives.

    Examining the role of traditional and new media in facilitating youth participation in democratic life, as well as the complex dynamics of youth exclusion from economic, educational and social spheres, the book reveals that most young people are far from apathetic about democracy but rather they are critical of current representative democratic systems and the political elites who appear to run these. Youth participation in democratic life: stories of hope and disillusion.

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    Youth engagement in politics indifferent or just different? - Jacob Helliwell - [email protected]

    FAQ Policy. About this book This book is concerned with the contexts, nature and quality of the participation of young people in European democratic life. Show all.

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