Nurturing the Emotional Lives of Gifted Learners

Your School Aged Child: Nurturing the Emotional Lives of Gifted Learners

Nurturing the emotional lives of your gifted and bright child can be very a challenging yet rewarding aspect of parenting these highly intelligent children. By keeping a few things in mind, your job as a parent of these often intense children can be a little easier.

Though not the case with all gifted children, many of these children appear to be oppositional; they tend to argue about a number of issues with their parents. Often it is because they want to understand the reasoning behind a decision as they are children who are driven to understand their world in highly abstract ways. Many of these children approach rules in the same way that they approach mathematical proofs. It is not enough for them to know that a given mathematical formula works; they often want to know why. Similarly, with household rules or other parental expectations, they are often seeking to understand the reasoning behind such rules as doing one's chores, getting to bed on time or just the nuances of getting along with a sibling. 

These interactions, although frustrating for a parent  and the child, provide an opportunity to teach the child notions of reciprocity and interdependence. For example, they need to know that doing chores is part of the way that groups of people who live together accomplish all the work. With slightly older gifted children, they are able to understand how a household might be like any other living system and that all the parts must function together for it to be healthy. Many gifted children are keenly interested in how diverse ideas relate to one another and so they might be interested in exploring comparisons between families and other systems such as ecosystems, computers, or transit systems.

Many gifted children experience considerable anxiety as they are often perfectionists. These children need to know that one can perfect one's effort but never one's accomplishments.  They need to learn to set small, measurable, manageable goals so that they can enjoy their successes. Successes need to be celebrated and they need to be prompted to identify what it is that they did that led to that success.   Reassurance, love and empathy are the key strategies that parents need to call upon in order to provide a "safe haven" for their perfectionist child.  As these children mature, it is often useful to discuss with them how a little anxiety is a healthy thing as it motivates them to pursue their goals.  Help them to learn the "Goldilocks rule": too little anxiety often means that the child is not emotionally invested in their goal, too much anxiety means that they are over invested in their goal.  The trick is to get it just right, that is, too feel nervous enough to study for that big test but not so nervous that you cannot complete the big test on test day.  Speak with your children about what amount of worry or anxiety is necessary for them to do their best.  In this way, you acknowledge what  they are feeling and are also helping them to identify and control their own emotions.

Bright children  are usually quite capable of intellectually understanding the world around them but are sometimes not emotionally mature enough to process the emotional component of their experiences. They often experience very intense feelings and emotions  the origins of which they do not understand. In order to help your child to cope with these intense emotions, many strategies commonly used to calm and relax ourselves can be useful. These can range from yoga to deep breathing exercises, from following artistic pursuits like painting or playing an instrument to writing in a journal, playing  or exercising. It is very important not to minimize the feelings expressed by these children. Instead,  try to find appropriate and positive outlets in collaboration with your child. Good coping strategies and self knowledge about how to calm and relax oneself will be of lifelong benefit for any child, and particularly those who are of a more "intense" nature.

© Ivonne Fuechter-Field 2018