The characteristic that convinces a parent that their child is gifted is often an impressive vocabulary or mathematical ability. This is the criteria that will get them into the “G and T” program in school, and is often a source of pride for both parents and children. Wait! There are other characteristics of giftedness that aren’t always so well received. Making the most of a powerful brain will sometimes mean addressing all the effects of giftedness on behavior, emotional reactions, social interaction and even physiology.
My primary point in writing this post is to mention that giftedness brings with it a host of abilities, and managing all them effectively will be your child’s lifelong challenge. Poorly managed, a child can struggle internally or fail to use their gifts with joy. Success starts with parental awareness and support.
Your gifted child, from toddlerhood onward, may demonstrate common patterns of behavior or thinking that can be challenging for parents:
- intense feelings and reactions
- high sensitivity to other’s feelings
- idealism and a sense of justice, intolerance of rigid rules at school or home
- daydreaming or preoccupation with own thoughts
- intense focus on specific tasks or topics, ignores other’s interests
- unusual sense of humor and playing with objects in atypical ways
- vivid imaginations, including imaginary playmates
- difficulty tolerating classroom routines and simple games
- less interest in playing with peers; seeks out older children or adults
- worries or becomes fearful of anticipated events or things they don’t understand
When children are assessed by a psychologist and found to have asynchrony in their development (a fancy term that describes a chart of testing scores that look like the Alps: high in some areas, average or below average in others), this can add to the frustration of living as a gifted child. Preschoolers with advanced cognition but poor articulation of speech cannot express themselves but are thinking amazing thoughts. This is so frustrating for them! Super-sensitive children may pick up on a teacher’s stress over her home life just by her posture and her energy level. They know that something bad is going on, and wonder if they should be concerned. Children with sensory sensitivity complain about scratchy shirts, irritating lights and can have difficulty with typical levels of noise, scents or movement.
Gifted kids can be incredible negotiators, remember every promise you make and hold to to them, develop sarcasm to control people, or try to influence every game so that it reflects their strong interests. They can be overwhelmed by commercials requesting donations for animals or children, and become upset when they listen to adults discuss political issues. All at 6 years of age or less!
What can parents do to help their gifted children, right from the start? Notice which characteristics seem to be most difficult for your child to handle. Some kids are irritated by stimulation from the physical world, some are under stimulated or simply lonely for sure peers at school, and some are overwhelmed by emotions. They are like snowflakes; each one is different.
Support your gifted child where she needs it most. Energetic kids need lots to do, and ways to calm down. Sensitive kids need to learn ways to manage the world without being overstimulated. Children who wear their hearts on their sleeves can take action to help others and understand how many adults are working for the same purpose as we speak.
Gifted children who learn to manage all the characteristics of giftedness are the leaders of the future, the innovators, and the people that will bring us forward. With the right support and understanding, they can use their abilities freely and joyously!