Siblings of Gifted Children
When one sibling is identified as gifted, but another is not, families must clearly recognize the ability of the identified child and just as clearly recognize the abilities shown by the other child in the family in other areas. The situation is analogous to having one child recognized for athletic ability or artistic talent, while the other child is seen as only average in these abilities. A family that values cognitive and academic abilities over other human abilities will communicate that bias. The human and interpersonal consequences will be difficult for all concerned. While not all children may reach the same level of ability evident in those we acknowledge as gifted learners, every child will have some special interest that needs attention and development.
Although care must be taken to ensure the healthy growth of intellect and self-esteem among all family members, each child need not have the same experiences. Sometimes in trying to be fair and model democratic principles, families make the mistake of eliminating unique activities that would benefit their gifted child, but that would be of no interest to or beyond the capability of other siblings. Such opportunities should not be eliminated in an effort to provide equal treatment for every child. Many of the problems encountered by the siblings of gifted children are similar to sibling problems found in any family, and no long-term effects have been found when one child is labeled “gifted.”
On the contrary, Robinson (1999) found that it can be an advantage to be the brother or sister of a gifted child. Having an older gifted sibling was associated with the younger siblings having less anxiety. They generally were thought by their parents to be well behaved, have social competence, and exhibit few behavior problems. Robinson suggested that parents might ensure the conditions for such positive relationships between siblings if they do the following:
- Expect their children to get along and to like and respect each other,
- Teach their children that “fair” does not necessarily mean “the same,”
- Ensure time alone with each child with lots of hugs and fun for each,
- Treasure each child for who they are and for their own special qualities, and
- Be careful not to let one child seem more favored or privileged.
Families with gifted children will have unique problems, but they will also have unique assets.
© ______ 2008, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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