The Gifted Family – Transforming Chaos into Calm

Welcome to readers of the 2014 New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour. This is a cross-post of an article I wrote for Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented found here.

Jen Merrill Head ShotWhen I asked Jen Merrill, author of If This is a Gift, Can I Send it Back? and the popular blog Laughing at Chaos, to co-moderate this week's #gtchat on Twitter; she seemed to think that we might be attempting to discuss the impossible. Her exact words were "And then we'll be discussing the Loch Ness Monster and Sasquatch!"

If you've raised gifted kids, family life can often seem chaotic and not just because of the kids! The parents' intensity plays a greater role than many of us like to admit. The term 'multiple personalities' takes on a whole new meaning when applied to the members of a gifted family. Attempting to bring calm to a world of chaos when you aren't sure who is in charge can prove difficult.
Undaunted ... we went ahead with the chat and were pleasantly surprised not only to see many new faces, but several folks we had not seen in years. It seems that chaos rules in many households where 'apples haven't fallen far from the tree' and now reside under one roof! And participants had a lot to say ... nearly 600 tweets in one hour ... about a tweet every 6 seconds! A list of the questions posed at this week's chat may be found here. A full transcript is at Storify.
Our first question addressed the issue of how asynchrony, when developmental levels of gifted children collide, affects family life in terms of sibling relationships and extended family. One of the first responses, "How does it NOT affect all of life?" from Mona Chicks, set the tone for most of the chat.
Life is indeed chaotic in the gifted family and most participants agreed, 'calm' is a refuge rarely achieved. As Jen noted, "It's hard to plan when you don't know what age/behavior will appear. Extended family may only see one 'age' or only see the kid outside his comfort zone. I think asynchrony causes the most pain with extended family that doesn't 'get it.' Sometimes [you get] judgement when you most need acceptance." Amy Harrington added, "Asynchrony is pervasive with no off switch. It is all consuming and mixed in with Overexcitabilities [OEs] can be entirely overwhelming at times."
We next considered, "What strategies can parents use to calm their own emotional intensities while dealing with their child’s OEs?" Pamela Price of Red, White and Grew, recommended that "Honestly? They need to IDENTIFY their own intensities and seek separate support for them, including their own counselor." Angie French from TeachaGiftedKid added, "You must take care of yourself so you can be the best caretaker of the ones you love." Susanne Thomas, new Online Education Director at Gifted Homeschoolers Forum, had some sage advice for the group, "Finding your tribe. Hands down. Anyone that 'gets' it even in concept needs to be cultivated and cherished."
Additional questions included dealt with:
  • the added pressures that parents face as mediators for their child when behaviors don't match cultural norms
  • how discrepancies in a child'd development affect educational options
  • what effect gifted parenting has on marital relationships and increased financial burdens due to such things as homeschooling and/or early college entrance
Our final question of the chat was meant to allow participants to express some of the unexpected joys they had experienced with their gifted child. Jen shared a recent newspaper article, Moving Picture: Libertyville Computer Whiz Has Big Plans, about her son and his intense interest in computers. Comments shared were truly inspiring!
  • "It's that moment when someone who had low expectations figures it out and is in AWE of his ability. Seeing the connections happen in his brain. Amazing!" Mona Chicks
  • "I get to school him here, and help him make connections, and watch his face light!!" Care M. 
  • "Knowing that if there's more spirited, divergent and creative thinkers out there like her, humanity might have a hope!" Celeste of Oz
  • "Saying 'my kid can code in 4 languages!'" Susanne Thomas
  • "An off the wall sense of humour. Watching them think - the brilliant leaps from go to OMG where did that come from???" Gluten - Free Mum
  • "His humor and original jokes! Oh, the jokes he spontaneously makes up!" Celi Trépanier
  • "Beyond joy about rediscovering his "old", happier self. Proud of us for stepping up to plate as parents. Flip side of public judgment--enormous appreciation 4 strangers who genuinely like your kid." tedra 
  • "Constantly impressed with their insight, creativity, kindness, seeing new patterns." Justin Schwamm 
Have you found your tribe? People who 'get' giftedness and how it affects your life? Consider joining us at Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented on Twitter and find your tribe! Each week we discuss timely topics related to gifted children, adults and education. Questions are posted the day before and an edited transcript is posted after each chat.
We look forward to seeing you Fridays on Twitter at 7/6 C and 4 PM PT in the U.S. as well as at midnight in the UK, 9 AM Saturdays in Australia (ET) and 11 AM in New Zealand. There is also a Sunday chat (in lieu of that week's Friday chat) on the 3rd week of the month at 4/3 C and 1 PM PT in the U.S. and 9 PM in the UK to accommodate those who can't attend the Friday chats.
Feel free to email me at with questions relating to chat times, topics you'd like to discuss or guests you'd like to see on #gtchat. Below is a list of links which were presented during this chat.
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Life in the Asynchronous Family” by Kathi Kearney
Off the Charts: Asynchrony and the Gifted Child” Neville, Piechowski & Tolan, eds.
Off-the-charts cover
Family Counseling with the Gifted” Linda Silverman” (pdf)
A Year of Small Gratitudes” from Jen Merrill
Serving Highly & Profoundly Gifted Learners”  (pdf) in the Gifted Education Communicator Winter 2009
Mellow Out Book Cover
Sprite's Site Post for New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour