There is no doubt that building peer support networks for gifted kids is important to their well-being and development. True peers – those with whom a child can identify with intellectually without regard to age – can help a child build healthy self-esteem, social skills, and a positive attitude toward school. They can help a gifted kid reduce stress and anxiety; feelings of loneliness; and build resiliency. (Neihart)
Certain characteristics of gifted children make it difficult for some (not all) of them to find peers that they can relate to and build positive relationships. Gifted children often seek older friends or other gifted children. Due to asynchronicity, gifted kids expect different things from friends. They display moral integrity and seek intimacy at earlier ages. (Neihart) Gifted children can be conflicted between high achievement and fitting in with age-related social groups. Profoundly/Exceptionally gifted children pass through development stages more quickly; making it harder to find friends, leading to social isolation. (Gross)
Parents often find themselves the facilitators of finding peers for their gifted children. Dr. Dan Peters of the Summit Center suggests that parents try to find other children who share their child’s interests and passions regardless of age (older or younger). Parents can also seek out enrichment opportunities that may be of interest and a source of other kids with similar likes. They can engage in role-playing with their child to improve and teach social skills as well as encourage active listening.
Due to age differences, some guidelines may need to be established when dealing with older friends. Parents should set clear limits on appropriate entertainment use for such things as television, movies, and video games. They need to establish appropriate curfews depending on the age of their child. Parents should encourage open two-way conversation with their children and talk to them about how to deal with drugs, alcohol, and interpersonal relations at a much younger age than expected for any particular age group.
Poor peer relations can affect a gifted child’s self-esteem. Younger gifted children may not fully understand why they feel so different from age-mates. They may see themselves or their own feelings as the problem for not having friends. A full story may be found at Storify.
Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7/6 C & 4 PT 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 new 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
Finding True Peers from Duke TIP
Highly Gifted Children & Peer Relationships from Davidson Gifted
“Play Partner” or “Sure Shelter”? Why Gifted Children Prefer Older Friends via Hoagies Gifted
A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children (Amazon)
Peer Relationships (pdf)
Social-Emotional Adjustment & Peer Relations from Coppell Gifted Association
The Legend of the Pink Monkey via Hoagies Gifted