So many times in my practice, I am asked the same questions: What is so different about gifted children? Why do they need special treatment? Aren’t there certain life skills that everyone needs to master?
It is not so much that gifted children need special treatment as they need specialized treatment. All children deserve to be respected and understood for where they are developmentally and emotionally. Gifted children are no different in that regard. I find that many parents become frustrated by the behaviors of their gifted children, and they struggle with how to parent them on a daily basis. The parenting struggles frequently get in the way of providing unconditional love and supporting their children’s social and emotional needs. In the effort to maintain a certain level of accord in the home and manage the behaviors of their children, parents lose sight of their children as individuals.
One of the most rewarding aspects of my practice has been helping parents and children reestablish their relationships with each other. My approach is based on helping families relearn how to LAUGH together. This is what I tell them:
The process starts with listening so you may truly hear what the child is saying. This is not just listening to the words but listening to the body language and the messages that come from behind the words. This takes intent and patience. In the hurry to get out the door for school or to get to bed on time, it is easy to miss clues that your child is giving you. Taking the time to slow down and really look at your children while interacting with them can reveal so much of what is going on in their minds and bodies.
Everyone is different, and your child is no exception. Accepting who your child is and his or her stage of development will alleviate a lot of parental stress. Development is a progression. This moment will be followed by another and another and soon your child will have mastered current challenges and will find something new to conquer. So accept what is in front of you with the understanding that it is just one step of the journey.
Reading, talking with others and beginning the process of understanding your child’s giftedness will arm you with the knowledge base to fully comprehend your child. With understanding comes the ability to accept and find ways to support your child and build a strong relationship with each other.
Life is meant to be fun so it is important to laugh with your children. Some gifted children can be very serious and anxiety prone. Laughter is a wonderful way to connect them with their lighter side and to help them balance their anxieties.
Don’t feel you have to do this alone. I always tell the families that I work with that raising a gifted child without a supportive social and emotional environment is difficult. Seek help when you need it. You can only help your child as much as you have the strength and energy within you. So take care of yourself as well and seek outside help when needed. It does not suggest that you are “less than”–it is more a sign of strength: a balanced individual who understands their limitations.
Most of all, love your children for who they are. Each child is like a diamond with many different facets. Each facet brings with it its own gifts and challenges, and together they shine.