Helping Gifted Children Cope with Life Changes
Coping with life changes such as moving to a new home, death of a loved one, divorce, a new school or a new sibling can be difficult for any child. This week on gtchat, we explored the unique challenges faced by gifted children which might make these changes harder or possibly easier for them. A transcript of the chat is available at Storify.
There are differentiating characteristics of gifted children that may affect their ability to cope with life changes. They can experience unusual emotional depth and intensity which may require philosophical discussions when confronting issues such as death or divorce. At an early age, gifted kids are often idealists and have a profound sense of social justice and moral judgment and this can come into play when experiencing a new environment such as a new home or school. Lisa Van Gemert of American Mensa and incoming board member for SENG told us, “Introversion can make them less likely to have a supportive peer group among their chronological-age peers. Perception and reasoning skills make it harder to keep “adult” issues from them.”
At the same time, inherent qualities that gifted kids may possess can contribute to their resilience. Many gifted children can make abstract connections and draw sophisticated conclusions. Their unique perspective on the world around them can also add to their resilience making the ability to face changes easier. Lisa Van Gemert said, “Advanced reading skills mean they often have more literary experience with issues and situations than peers.” Gina Boyd, self-contained high ability teacher in Indiana added, “My students are willing to seek advice from trusted adults and crave adult interaction.That could be helpful.” Jo Freitag, coordinator of Gifted Resources and blogger in Australia said, “Gifted children can often use logic, deduction and forecasting to anticipate changed situations which can lead to resilience.”
When considering the emotional intensity of gifted children, some will have to confront self-imposed sources of stress. They often set excessively high standards for themselves resulting in high levels of stress when facing major life changes. Also, gifted children’s high expectations of others can lead to stress when these expectations are not met. This will affect how they approach new friends and teachers. Perfectionism, impostor syndrome and asynchronous development were cited as potential sources of self-imposed stress.
We then turned our attention to how parents can support their child’s social learning; learning how to cope with social situations. Parents can work with their children by role-playing social situations and how to handle them. They should always be aware that they are a role model for their child; using this for teachable social moments. Jen Merrill of Laughing at Chaos and author expressed it as, “Parents have to get out there with supports and debriefings. You can’t learn social skills in a vacuum.”
What are some signs that kids aren’t dealing well with the change at hand? Sudden changes in behavior – what’s different from the ‘norm’ for a particular child is something for which to watch. If a child becomes withdrawn or highly emotional, begin a dialog to determine what’s wrong. For teachers, Jerry Blumengarten (Cybraryman), said, “It’s important to watch the student’s body language and their micro expressions.” Debra Lemieux suggested, “Journaling about what causes their social anxiety may help some children.”
Finally, we discussed strategies to use to teach well-being to young people. Well-being can be found in expressions of gratitude & appreciation; a simple act of giving thanks. Young gifted children can be encouraged to discover and build on personal strengths. They may need to be taught how to nurture relationships with others and build friendships. Jeremy Bond, writer and parent from Connecticut, summed it up well, “Perhaps teach that feelings are reactions to temporary situations. Teaching well-being provides perspective on setbacks.”
Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented and sponsored by GiftedandTalented.com is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7E/6C/5M/4P in the U.S., Midnight in the UK and Saturdays 11 AM NZST/9 AM AEST to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.
About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad
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