All families have a range of abilities; but when that range includes wide differences, it can make for stressful interactions. Family members may lack social skills necessary to interact with others or large groups. Generational attitudes toward precocious toddlers or a quirky elderly relative will often come into conflict without sufficient time to resolve or explain differences. Holidays tend to disrupt routines, create untenable expectations of behavior, increase anxiety concerning the less fortunate, and place oversensitivities in the forefront of extended family interactions.
Gifted children with similar abilities often have an affinity for each other and this can play a role in family gatherings. Adults can make arrangements in advance to facilitate social interactions. Parents should realize that children may react differently to stress. Plans can be put into place to provide time and place for kids to de-escalate if they get overwhelmed. It’s important to understand that a child’s reactions to frustrating situations should not be minimized simply because a child is labeled gifted. Behaviors can escalate quickly if not dealt with promptly.
Gifted adults do not always remember or even realize that they serve as role models for younger family members. Parents should be prepared to remind family members of this reality. Adults who have been regarded gifted their entire lives may harbor extreme attitudes regarding self-importance or the opposite view – succumbing to impostor syndrome. This may require a significant amount of diplomacy to counteract.
How can parents manage others’ expectations about their children before family gatherings? Parents generally have two options – deal with expectations in the moment or ignore them and deal with it at a later time. Often the severity of the situation will determine a course of action. It’s important to consider the child’s feelings and the appropriateness of how to react. Parents usually have the benefit of previous experience with other family members and should be able to anticipate expectations.
Any social gathering can become a teachable moment. This can be a good time to learn social skills involving those a child doesn’t know well. It’s important to remember that children take social cues exhibited by their parents. Building memories can be a powerful experience for children. Creating an opportunity for children to learn about family history can make a lasting impression on them.
Although many families separate children from adults during family meals, this may not be necessary for children who exhibit an affinity for adult conversation and concerns. These kids may revel in these experiences. Creating family traditions for young children to participate in can also provide a lifelong positive experience associated with family gatherings. A transcript of this chat may be found at Wakelet.
Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Thursdays at 8E/7C/6M/5P in the U.S. and Fridays at 2PM NZDT/Noon AEDT/1 AM UK to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Wakelet. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news and information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.
Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.