What Gifted Kids Want Their Parents to Know

Recently, I surveyed some gifted kids (ages six to eighteen) and asked them about ideas, thoughts, or suggestions that they wanted to be sure that parents of gifted kids remembered when raising their children.  While some of these recommendations are similar to ones in my back pocket, there were others that were quite surprising.  It continues to amaze me how gifted kids have insight and perspicacity beyond their years.

See what you think…..

#1 Help Us Learn How to Fail

The kids said that “people say it is OK to make mistakes but their words and actions can be inconsistent. Often expectations are unwavering in seeking perfection.” Others said, “failure is an uncomfortable feeling—what do I do when it happens?” One idea is that caring adults can model/explain when they make mistakes and how they recover. Often parents and teachers appear to be error free and neglect to share strategies for bouncing back from mistakes, especially when emotional fall-out occurs.

#2 If We Say We Want to Try Something That You Think is Weird, Wacky, or Just Plain Silly, Give Us A Chance; After All, You Raised Us!

Trust is a two-way street.  Gifted kids are asking that adults believe in their dreams, even those far-fetched. Most of us know that creative experiences often are messy, problematic, and illogical; however, turning over our kitchen or workshop to experiments in the unknown takes real courage. So, try some playful experiences together, as it enhances well-being for everyone in the family. Innovation and design come from tolerance for ambiguity and the unfamiliar—create opportunities.

# 3 Remember That There is More to Us Than Above the Neck; Help Us to Be in Our Body. 

Many gifted kids reported feeling out of synch with their bodies—sometimes physical development and/or competence lagged behind academic competence. This asynchrony was mentioned by kids who didn’t know how to reconcile the feelings of being disconnected from their physiology—they just felt awkward. Providing experiences of being in nature, mindful movement (tai-chi/yoga), targeted exercise, sports, relaxation exercises, and experiential team-building activities are all pathways to generating deeper connection.

#4   Age is a Non-Issue When Being Grouped with Older Kids. That is the “Real World”---Adults have Work and Social Peers Who Vary from Them in Age, Right?

Gifted kids have this one right. Different peers are needed for growth in different situations; academics, athletics, and faith-based and social groups may all require a different age group depending on the needs of the individual child. Gifted kids perceive ageism as a real concern and need tools of self-advocacy to navigate this territory successfully. Use “social stories” or roleplay as means of instilling confidence in unfamiliar situations where there is an age mis-match.

#5 We Need Strategies to Learn More About Being Intense and Sensitive—Sometimes it Feels Downright Overwhelming and We Don’t Know How to Handle Our Feelings.

Mindfulness strategies are essential and effective (there are apps galore) plus there is a solid research base (e.g. Center for Greater Good).  Gifted people need to be given tools to be able to slow down their busy brains and feel more in control. Occasions for calming and relaxing should be provided as options and aligned to the child’s profile such as water, exercise, music, or meditating—try different approaches until there is a good fit. Help gifted children to develop their feelings vocabulary for new understanding using tools such as the Atlas of Emotions website developed by Dr. Paul Ekman and his daughter Eve Ekman. Be sure that your gifted child has a designated “safe person” with whom he/she/they can process difficult or engulfing feelings.

This is a selection from a wider array of commentaries from some insightful gifted kids.  Perhaps it might be a great entry point for further conversation at your home or school.  Ask the gifted kids in your world what they hope that parents of gifted kids remember on the journey.  I took a chance and asked all six of my adult gifted kids and with much back and forth bantering they settled on many similar ideas as the younger kids.  However, the last one took my breath away:  "We Still Need You!"  Let’s not forget it!

Author:  Michele Kane, Parent & Community Network Chair-Elect