Interesting, I just saw Dakota Fanning (young actress in War of the Worlds) on Letterman. I think she's 11 years old. She is so smart and poised. I understand what you mean by a kid being beyond her years.
My good friend has a daughter of 15 who may as well be 30. She is so responsible, plays violin professionally already.
I don't have children so I don't presume to have the right response, but I like what the Captain said.
This also reminded me. I have a friend who lives in California, Lizzie. I watched her son grow up from a 3 or 4 year old. Spent a lot of time with him. Babysat, etc. He was a smart kid, and an only child. He's in his junior year at Berkeley now ... in love of course etc.
Here's a strange thing. I was at Lizzie's house talking about DP. She CAN'T understand it to save her life, never has, never will, even though was a philosophy major and subsequently a Social Worker before being a full time Mom. She gets depressed now and then, but nothing major.
Any way her son comes into the room looking for CDs or something, around age 12 or 13. I didn't stop talking and Liz is very open about things. I'm explaining this to Liz for the 50th time, and she's saying, "Is it like, this? or that?, etc." Then Adam, her son says. "Oh I've felt that a lot of times. It's weird. Then it goes away."
End of story. He finds the CD he's looking for and leaves the room. No big deal, LOL.
When I observe my close friends with their children, what seems to work, and never ceases to amaze me is honesty and communication (not in major detail) makes these kids (I can't speak for all of them) feel more comfortable.
I guess I am envious. I will never forget when my mother was very ill, was bleeding profusely in her bed before I went to school. She needed a hysterectomy. I was in 6th grade, so about 12. When I asked her what was wrong she told me to shut up and get in the carpool and go to school.
There's a lot more to the story, including her removing her self from the hospital early against medical advice, but her lying about what happened, keeping these "secret" and mysterious from me, made me pull further inwards.
I can't speak for anyone else's kid. I just like the idea of open communication which makes a kid feel "more comfortable" with being able to express his/her concerns.
From someone who really wanted to be a Mom. And I don't know how I would handle this myself, but having grown up with secrecy and lies, I prefer honesty ... of course geared to the level of the child.
And I admire all the parents on the board. You all deserve medals of honor.
EDIT: And of course I realize it isn't easy discussing scary things when they feel they'll lose you. But my mother never explained her problems, even when they were major, and I felt more frightened and confused. My parents were separated early, so I just feared the worst. I feared loss an abandonment.
I agree that DP has got to be the damndest thing to explain to anyone, but kids never cease to amaze me. Sometimes they can comfort an adult!