You’ve done your parental homework. You sought professional help early on. You’ve worked in tandem with your school district to understand what services they offer. You’ve spent extra time with your child’s teachers so everyone is on the same page. You’ve even successfully navigated the psychological testing maze. Your instincts proved correct: Your kid is gifted!
Once the flush of success and excitement wears off, reality hits. Along with the kudos and perks of having a gifted child, you begin to realize there is a downside as well. Your child displays a level of boredom and impatience that tries your patience. Frustration and disappointment reign when her self-imposed goals aren’t met. Her lack of a social peer group causes you worry and a certain level of sadness. And more worrisome is her seemingly disregard for family boundaries and rules.
As if the challenges your gifted child brings to the family unit aren’t enough, society at large joins in. “Most people don’t know what is considered normal for the gifted is most often labeled neurosis in the general population,” suggests Mary Rocamora, M.A., of The Rocamora School, Inc., in Los Angeles, California. Given this observation, it is imperative that parents provide their gifted child with an extra dose of support in the following areas:
- Emotional intensity. Heightened emotions often go hand-in-hand with all that brain power. And feeling emotions more intensely than others can lead your gifted child to see herself as “abnormal.” Reassure her that her emotional responses are normal, for her. Do you have a memory of a time that you felt intensely emotional? Share your story.
- Extreme sensitivity. Intense sensitivity is perfectly normal for the gifted child. Again, reassure your child. Explain to him in simple terms that others might view his sensitivity as “inappropriate” or “abnormal” because they don’t understand. Use a realistic approach when teaching your child that the world-at-large is not always kind.
- Discipline. All children test limits; it’s their job. But some gifted children test limits to the hilt. Exercise appropriate discipline. Best results come from verbally communicating expectations, highlighting the rules and regulations. Have your child play back to you their interpretation of what they heard. Correct misinterpretations and always leave room for negotiation.
- Venting. Nothing you do as a parent holds more worth than giving your child your full attention. Active listening is more about validating than giving advice or offering suggestions. Practice daily.
- Safety nets. Be present in your child’s world. Know their friends, teachers, dance instructor, and soccer coach. Build relationships with those in your child’s “village.” When problems surface, you have a support system; when success happens, you have a fan club.