Parenting Gifted Children … Does it Have to Be So Hard?
When I first started contemplating parenthood, I shared the idyllic dreams of many wannabe parents of what life would be like with children. Visions of … “Mommy, I love you!” … danced in my head. Never, ever, did I think it would be as difficult as it has been and this has come as quite a shock to me! No one said it would be easy, but … geez … did it have to be this hard?
Recently, I started taking a more serious look at the books written about parenting gifted children. And wow, there are quite a lot of them! Most are excellent resources, well written, and offer good advice to frazzled parents. I would recommend them to anyone. In fact, I’ll include a short list at the end of this post.
That being said, I began to look back at my experiences with my own children. They are both in college now, thankfully; so, I have much to reflect on concerning their early years. The information available to me as a young mother was not much more than what my mother had used … Dr. Spock and Dr. T. Berry Brazelton. Widespread use of the Internet was in its infancy and I had no idea that they were ‘gifted’ … amazingly bright kids who seemed to win arguments more than they should, but gifted?
Information is power and the earlier a parent has it, the better! Although it’s good to know how to be a good parent, in the case of a gifted child … it’s also good to know what you’re dealing with. It helps to prepare you for the rapid-fire advancement through various stages of development with a little asynchronous development thrown in for good measure. Make it a point to learn what your school district offers in the way of gifted programming K – 12, who is responsible for administering and providing services, and what the law is regarding gifted education in your state/country. This can be done even before your child sets one foot in school.
Now that you have that down, let’s talk about potential problem areas when parenting a gifted child. I have already mentioned one of the most difficult challenges – asynchronous development. Most people don’t even know what that means and you may not either; but, you’ve ‘seen’ what it looks like. Gifted kids can be brilliant at a very young age, but this frequently doesn’t match their social and emotional maturity. In fact, the discrepancy between brain function and maturity can make for some very unpleasant situations. Knowing that this is relatively common in gifted children and being prepared to deal with it is half the battle.
Another challenge faced by gifted parents is realizing early on that nobody cares more for your child and their education than you. The buck stops here. Not only must you be the one to advocate for your child at school; you must also take responsibility for providing supplemental learning opportunities outside of school. This can take various forms such as afterschool programs, classes at universities that offer gifted programs, summer camps, cultural experiences, and travel to historical locations to name a few. It can also be as simple as a trip to the library or a nature hike. Talk often with your child and find ways to spark their curiosity.
Did you hear the part about “talk to your child”? Since they seem to be asking questions incessantly, this shouldn’t be hard to do. Talk about many different topics … they are usually up for a debate anyway! Talk to them about those things you value most and why you hold certain beliefs. They won’t always agree with you, but one day they will thank you for it. Never be afraid to say, “I don’t know”. Consider it an opportunity to learn together. Buckle up – it’s a wild ride!
In the final analysis, it’s you and your child … that’s just how it is. It is a journey you take together and do the best you can. Laugh with, love, and enjoy them, because in the blink of an eye – they are on their own. If you do your job, it will be the happiest time in both your lives!
And now for a brief list of books (in no particular order) I (and a few of my closest friends) like on gifted parenting …
- Living With Intensity (Susan Daniels/Michael Piechowski)
- Emotional Intensity in Gifted Children (Christine Fonseca)
- The Survival Guide for Parents of Gifted Kids (Sally Walker)
- Guiding the Gifted Child (James T. Webb, Stephanie Tolan, et al.)
- Academic Advocacy for Gifted Children (Barbara Jackson Gilman)
- Raising a Gifted Child (Carol Fertig)
- A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Teens (Lisa Rivero)
- Making the Choice (Corin Barsily Goodwin/Mika Gustavson)
- When Gifted Kids Don’t Have All the Answers (Jim Delisle/Judy Galbraith)
- Raisin Brains (Karen Johnson Isaacson)
- 5 Levels of Gifted (Deborah Ruf)