Were you surprised to discover that raising a gifted child was not at all what you would have expected beforehand? Do you sometimes feel alone on this journey, certain that no one could possibly understand the struggles you and your gifted child are facing? Are you feeling as though your child’s school does not understand the educational, social and emotional needs of gifted children? You are not alone.
Many on this journey of raising and educating gifted children know and understand the common speed bumps and roadblocks in a gifted child’s life. And they also know that these obstacles can cause educational, emotional and social repercussions in gifted children. Depression, anger, disengagement from school, acting out, inability to connect with peers, and dropping out of school are a few of the adverse effects of the sometimes difficult lives gifted children may face.
While each gifted journey may be different, and the obstacles each gifted child and their family face can be simply inconvenient or tragically painful, there are three areas teachers and parents should remember when searching for answers to help better the educational, emotional and social lives of gifted children—advocacy, activities and mentors.
Advocacy encompasses the many instances where it is needed to improve the lives of gifted children. Whether advocating for your child at school during a simple parent-teacher conference or advocating publicly for better understanding of the educational, emotional and social needs of all gifted children, advocacy will always play a pivotal role.
Despite the focus or form it takes, advocacy will always be a necessary tool for educators and parents of gifted children. As such, one should have a clear, objective and factual understanding of giftedness in children, and also be well prepared to advocate. There is a wealth of resources—books, articles, groups, organizations, professional publications, online forums, and discussions—which can provide the knowledge you need to advocate effectively. Clearly, the misunderstanding about giftedness is prevalent, so effective advocacy is always essential.
School activities, extracurricular activities, teams, clubs, classes, competitions and volunteer opportunities—any activity, whether educational, social or recreational, can have the potential to help or to harm your gifted child, so choosing carefully is important.
Gifted children have unique educational, emotional and social needs, and these needs are not often addressed or met in typical activities in and out of school. The right activity can be transformational for your gifted child, and it behooves us to put considerable thought into which activities our gifted children participate in. An extremely sensitive gifted child may not thrive in competitive sports, or a highly gifted student may feel as though he does not fit in with age-mates on his chess team. This can lead to unwanted emotional stress.
On the flip side, an activity in which your gifted child is enthusiastic, involved and feels a sense of belonging can help your child develop positive emotional and social skills and build his self-esteem. If the strife in your gifted child’s life comes from a less-than-challenging education at school or her inability to find intellectual peers, then an engaging, enjoyable extracurricular activity can help take the bite out of the unhappiness.
Mentorships seem to be an underutilized opportunity to better the lives of gifted children. Confirming that point is seeing the lack of resources available on locating and utilizing mentorships for gifted children. My firsthand experience with a mentor relationship for one of my gifted sons was overwhelmingly positive. Of all the resources and opportunities my son had to meet his needs as a gifted learner such as acceleration, homeschooling, being on a robotics team, early-entrance college, it was his relationship with two wonderful mentors that was by far the most beneficial, and the one where the benefits were most notable.
Raising and educating a gifted child can be challenging and sometimes agonizing. With the lack of society’s understanding about giftedness, you as well as your gifted child may feel alone, sad and hopeless. Knowing where to turn for answers and finding the solutions which benefit your child can seem daunting at times. Keeping in mind these three things—advocacy, activities and mentors—may help steer you to the solutions and life experiences which can help your child find happiness and success in her life.
Gifted Advocacy, Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page
Advocating for Your Gifted Child Within the Public School System, Celi Trépanier, Noodle Education, March 11, 2015
Tips for Parents: Advocacy – Working With Your Child’s School, Anne Shoplik, Davidson Institute for Talent Development, 2015
Finding Great Summer Activities for Your Gifted Child, Celi Trépanier, Noodle Education, June 30, 2015
Planning for Summer, National Association for Gifted Children,
Enrichment for Gifted & Talented Children, Trevor Cairney, Literacy, families and learning, March 8, 2012
Mentor relationships and gifted learners, S. L. Berger, Davidson Institute for Talent Development, 1990
Mentors for Gifted Students, Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page
Mentorship and Gifted Youth, Kate Williams, Institute for Educational Advancement, January 8, 2013
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, stevendepolo.