When I was expecting my first child, I must have read the book ~ What to Expect When You’re Expecting ~ at least five times. I was all set! I had all the answers laid out for me on the pages of this one easy-to-read book. Piece of cake. No problem. Years of perfect parenting and my child would be out the door on her way to a perfect existence due in large part to me.
Wrong! Fast forward 18 years. What was I thinking? I must have been delusional! Kids aren’t born with a manual for a reason. Add in the high-ability factor, the over-excitabilities, the teen years and it’s more like the perfect storm. My mother swore by Dr. Spock and at first I thought T. Berry Brazelton was great. Yes … even a year into parenting, I still thought I could find all the answers in a parenting book.
The fact of the matter is that the only thing to expect with a gifted child is the unexpected. Their development will be asynchronous ~ unequal. They can be explaining a complex mathematical problem at one minute and having a tantrum the next because of a minor incident. At night, they may complain about a predetermined bedtime because they are involved in a deep conversation with a professor half-way around the world. Yes, they need to learn responsibility; but you will need to learn to be flexible.
The news isn’t all bad. There is rarely a dull moment and conversation with a gifted child can be both fascinating and engaging. When your child is younger, explore many different areas of interest and observe which topics they respond to. In later years as they refine their likes and dislikes, provide as many opportunities as you can for enrichment in these areas. Challenge their intellect. When necessary, find mentors for your child both in real life and online.
There is an ongoing debate in the gifted community about when you ‘know’ a child is gifted. Does it really matter? You know your child. If you see early signs that they may be ‘bright’, don’t wait around for the experts to tell you what to do. It doesn’t hurt to spend as much time as possible nurturing them and recognizing ‘teachable’ moments.
This is something all parents can do. It doesn’t require a great expenditure of money. Your presence in their lives is the most important thing you can give them. Read to them. Answer their questions. Find answers if you don’t know them. Tell them stories. Engage them in ‘make believe’ activities. Teach them about their heritage. Help them to understand that something worth having is something for which they must be willing to work hard.
Most importantly … relax. Life isn’t perfect. There will be unexpected events over which you’ll have no control. You’ll never have all the answers. Provide a good foundation for your child … it’s all that can be expected.