Consider the following story as it relates to this piece.
Jenny, our next-door neighbor, recently told us that her son started therapy even though he’s only 9 years old! He’s apparently been extremely stressed with some of his schoolwork to the point where he began developing some anxiety. When I found out, I couldn’t believe it! I mean, how can a 9-year-old develop anxiety at such a young age? Jenny, however, explained that kids today are presented with plenty in school and life to be worried about.
If you’ve noticed your child demonstrating outstanding levels of skill in areas like mathematics, music or language, just to name a few, there’s a chance he/she may be what the National Association for Gifted Children classifies as “gifted.” This is, without a doubt, a good reason to feel pride and excitement for your child!
However, along with their incredible strengths, gifted children are very susceptible to developing distress, anxiety and other issues. This is why it’s important for you to know how to support and parent your gifted child.
At Rice Psychology Group, we recognize just how important your child and their success is to you. If you need a bit of guidance with your gifted child, then contact us today!
Know Your Role
If your child is gifted, it may be easy to let him/her make their own decisions when it comes to picking classes or activities. However, keep in mind that, depending on the decision, this can be too much power and responsibility for them. All kids need to believe that their parents are in charge and know what is best for them. Leaving it up to your child to decide important decisions, such as which religion to follow or school to attend, places an unfair burden on them and can undermine their sense of security and safety.
If your child is identified as gifted and their school system offers a specific curriculum or classes designed for gifted students, it’s your role as a parent to decide whether he/she should participate or not. While asking your child if he/she prefers soccer, horseback riding or cooking classes after school seems reasonable, you are the ultimate decision-maker in their life.
The bottom line is that you’re the person with experience, wisdom and hindsight, which is why the decision-making should be left to you. However, this doesn’t mean that you should exclude their concerns. Remember that you’re the adult and have the ability to guide your decision-making, but you may potentially be putting too much burden on them.
It’s not uncommon for gifted children to underachieve at an early age. After all, most will be able to complete their schoolwork in half the time their classmates will. Be sure to give your child opportunities to struggle, work hard and experience frustration. Encourage them to stick with things for the amazing reward that is the feeling of a hard job well-done or a challenge overcome.
Gifted kids need to have to work hard on some things in their lives or they’ll be ill-equipped when school or work actually does require effort. Help them to understand that having to work hard at something does not mean that they’re stupid or incapable. Instead, it means that they’re seeking new knowledge and are brave enough to learn new things. Practice and a willingness to make mistakes are the keys to success, not simply a high IQ!
Compliments and Praise
Compliments can make anyone feel great, and things are no different for a gifted child! However, we need to be aware that constantly praising gifted kids only for their abilities can backfire. This may happen because they can begin to think that, if they’re so smart, everything should come easily to them. So, if things are hard, they’re at risk of opting not to try as they might feel that they’ll fail or make a mistake.
Psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck writes about this in one of my favorite books, Mindset. Praise a kid’s efforts, perseverance and willingness to try different strategies if their first attempts don’t work. Gifted kids especially need to know that their intellect and talents are their starting points and, that through hard work and a willingness to try and sometimes fail, they will be paving their own amazing paths to success.
They need to feel recognition for their achievements from the people whose opinions matter most to them; their parents. Remember to be aware of when your child’s efforts have made a difference and continue encouraging them with positive feedback.
Don’t Use Your Child as an Example
Everyone is unique, which is why it’s so important that you don’t use your child as an exemplary beacon for their siblings or other children. Comparing your child’s abilities to others may potentially cause him/her to tone them down for their wanting to fit in.
Let Us Help You
At Rice Psychology Group, we understand that supporting a gifted child can sometimes feel overwhelming and highly challenging. However, you don’t need to worry with our Tampa-based psychologists at your side! Our team is here to help you better understand your situation, your child’s needs and any other facet involved in supporting a gifted child. For more information about the ways we can help, contact us today.