Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained – Marie Curie
Raising a gifted child? You’re so lucky, right? Actually, sometimes it’s extra hard to raise a gifted child. Celi Trepanier, the author of Educating Your Gifted Child, created a checklist of information those people parenting or teaching gifted children should know. I’ve included the top five issues people should be aware of:
Gifted students do not always excel in school. While many gifted children are high achievers and excel in school, many others are bored, unchallenged, or dealing with co-existing learning disabilities. This means that even though gifted students are very bright, we cannot always expect them to succeed in school.
Gifted children often have emotional intensities. Along with higher than average intelligence, gifted children often have stronger than average emotions; they can be passionate and intense.
Gifted children can be extremely sensitive. That emotional intensity (#2) works hand-in-hand with extreme sensitivity. Children who are gifted can be very sensitive to sensory issues such as smells and sensations as well as negative comments or criticism.
Gifted children can have learning disabilities. Students who are both gifted and have learning disabilities are often called “twice exceptional.” Children can have both above average intelligence and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or Sensory Processing Disorder.
Gifted children can struggle socially. They are not always interested in the conversations or hobbies of their peers and will therefore stand apart. In addition, sometimes they excessively correct the people around them, leading to resentment and frustration.
So, what can we do with this information? What do you do as a parent or teacher of a gifted child? Christine Fonseca, the author of several nonfiction and fiction titles, recently published Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students: Helping Kids Cope with Explosive Feelings. The main focus of her book is helping gifted children who struggle with their emotions.
In her introduction she notes,
Parenting is a difficult job. You aren’t given a manual when you have a child and there’s no survival guide to tell you what to do. Things complicate further if your child is lucky enough to be gifted. People tell you it’ll be easy raising a bright child, leaving you frustrated when your child begins to act a little… intense.
Fortunately, there are parenting books to help – too many parenting books.
Most of these books don’t address the unique needs of gifted children. In fact, as you attempt the strategies typically found in them, things often get worse…
As the negative feelings build, your child increases the intensity of her behaviors, adding fuel to the fire. The result? A chaotic household with few resources available to help.
That’s where this book comes in. Designed to provide support for the difficult job of parenting gifted children, “Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students: Helping Kids Cope with Explosive Feelings” provides the resource you need to not only understand why gifted children are so extreme in their behavior, but also learn specific strategies to teach your children how to live with their intensity.
We might think that it is easy to parent gifted children, but in reality, parenting gifted children can be a struggle until we figure out how to manage and direct all of their special characteristics.
Tips for Helping Your Gifted Child Deal with Emotional Intensity
Now that we understand why we need a separate guide for parenting gifted children, what are the steps parents can take to help those children manage their emotions? How can we make life easier and more enjoyable for the whole family?
Help your child talk about his emotions. When we help children develop an emotional vocabulary, we can transform raw feelings into a tangible thing. This is the first step in learning to control those very raw emotions.
Recognize (and help him recognize) his escalation cycle. Most children have a pattern in terms of what sets them off and how they get riled up. When we can point these patterns out to the child, he can start to recognize his behavior and stop himself before he gets out of control.
Create a plan. After you have identified the escalation cycle, the two of you can work on a plan for what your child can do when he is overwhelmed. These can be relaxation techniques or exercises to distract from the cycle.
Don’t get emotional yourself. If your child does get caught up in the emotional intensity and cannot stop the escalation, be sure to keep your emotions neutral and stay calm.
Take a time out. Both you and your children can take breaks from each other in order to create distance from the emotional outbreaks.
Emphasize the behavior you want to see. Rather than talking incessantly about the negative behavior that your child is exhibiting, talk about the positive behaviors that you would like your child to engage in. The more attention you pay to the positive, the more it will be on your child’s mind.
Just remember, intensity is a great thing! It’s passion and enthusiasm and lifelong engagement. As parents and teachers, we just need to ensure that we direct that energy towards positive endeavors.