Goodness of Fit: The Challenge of Parenting Gifted Children (page 2)
As a counselor and family therapist who has spent more than 20 years working with gifted and talented children and their families, I was excited when asked to discuss the challenge of parenting the gifted. I was reintroduced to how complex and substantial the challenge is of parenting the gifted child. In my practice I provide counsel and support to parents daily. What the parent brings is a host of differentiated needs, issues, and struggles that can’t quite be solved with marginal everyday solutions or a quick fix. Parenting a gifted child requires the same level of differentiation as we can hope to find educating or counseling the gifted.
I have found that defining and understanding the challenge of parenting the gifted is a daunting charge. With such an array of issues, where a parent begins can itself be a challenge. Sometimes parents want to let go and hope for the best, while others may cling to their fears and overmanage their child’s life. Reaching a balance for the parent of the gifted is complex. The parents in this case may benefit from a differentiated model tailored to their child.
The Gifted Identity Formation Model
The Gifted Identity Formation Model (GIFM) was developed with this process in mind. This differentiation model is designed for parents, counselors, and individuals to address the complex needs of the gifted. Presented here are sections of the model to conceptualize and explore the challenge of parenting the gifted and provide practical means to address the challenge. The basis of the model is to provide a framework to assist in meeting the differentiated needs, what I have termed a goodness of fit, a term borrowed from the research literature. The challenge comes into play when a parent has to find the right fit to meet the exceptionality of a gifted child. Goodness of fit results when there is a match between the differentiated needs of an individual and what is provided or available to meet those needs leading to a fulfilled potential and content self.
The four constructs in GIFM are Validation, Affirmation, Affiliation, and Affinity. I refer to these as the underpinnings or processes involved in meeting needs and forming one’s identity. In this case we are exploring gifted identity and creating a goodness of fit.
The first construct, Validation, is the process of corroborating exactly what giftedness is for the child, knowing more specifically how the child is gifted, and what vulnerabilities come along with that giftedness. So, to have a valid self as gifted, whose needs are met, requires knowledge and assessment that is more than just an IQ score or having a label attached. This is a critical piece for parents, to have an appropriate view or complete profile of the child’s giftedness. This may involve extensive testing and assessment and an ongoing process of recognizing your child’s uniqueness. Validation is the first step in meeting needs.
Affirmation is the process that involves the challenge, effort, and enrichment (e.g., acceleration programs, advanced study, supportive frameworks, and mentoring relationships, etc.) of the child’s gift(s). This approach fits with the child’s gifts and takes into account the vulnerabilities associated with that giftedness. This also could be referred to as a matched challenge.
Affiliation involves the need for belonging, how gifted children find others of like mind, nature, or ability. This is a critical struggle for many gifted children. This construct also is relevant to meeting educational needs.
The last construct, Affinity, is the child’s purpose or calling in life. This is not the parents’ desire for what the child should do with his or her gifts or other’s expectations, but the child’s affinity (i.e., also referred to as purpose, calling, or will to meaning). Meeting affinity is about what engages the child to meet needs and fulfill self. Affinity also is important in understanding what motivates a gifted child.
In order to conceptualize this challenge and use the four constructs listed above, I have synthesized some of the critical and more frequent needs of the parent of the gifted in the form of four questions. Each of these questions parallels the constructs. These questions were formulated based on the research literature, my extensive experience working with parents, and from an analysis of hundreds of collected questions from presentations I have delivered to thousands of parents of the gifted (at every parent presentation I ask parents to write down their critical questions that brought them to hear me speak. I have collected these questions over the years and identified issues that are central to parents of the gifted).
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association for Gifted Children. ©2008 National Association for Gifted Children.
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