One of the challenges for parents with a gifted child is to encourage
them to develop a range of interest outside the academic sphere that not only
rounds them out but stops them from being isolated from their peers.
Gifted children are a diverse group of kids who are talented in specific areas
such as mathematics, language, sport or music. Some gifted kids are mutli-talented
excelling in a variety of areas.
Gifted children tend to be passionate and
single-minded about their interests focusing their energy on the topics that
absorb them, often to the exclusion of other activities.
Just as all children need to have a balanced diet to remain in good health they
need a balance between work and play to make sure they develop good social
networks and maintain emotional health. That means that parents need to guide
these children towards leisure-time options that they wouldn't normally
Work from strengths
One way to encourage a gifted child to be more well-rounded is to get them to
lead with their strengths. In other words, it maybe that a computer whiz meets
up with other like-minded souls but extend the meetings to activities away from
the computer. Or an artistic child can be encouraged to develop her literacy
skills by adding simple stories to their illustrations.
Balance for gifted children doesn't necessarily mean that they spend an equal
amount of time in every area but making sure that they don't become isolated as
a result of their gift. Parents may need to be part social director gently
insisting that children set aside time for play and other social activities.
The courage to be imperfect
Gifted children are often low risk-takers in areas or endeavors that are not
their passions or strengths. Used to automatically excelling they fear doing
things poorly so exceptionally capable children can be reluctant to attempt
unknown or different tasks. Often exceptional kids give up when they are not
automatically good at something. It takes some personal courage to step into the
unknown and actually attempt tasks where they don't automatically excel or feel
that they can control.
It helps to be direct with these children about their perfectionism. Discuss
with them that it is normal to be strong in some areas but not as capable in
others. Also these children need to understand that learning in areas they feel
uncomfortable can take much longer and require more effort than they are used
to. It can be quite a shock for talented kids to find that something doesn't
come easily to them!
Parents can push too hard
Some gifted young children slow down their learning when they start school as
they focus their time and energy on making friends. In terms of fitting in to
social settings this is essential however parents who are proud of their child's
achievements can become quite anxious at this apparent shift in interest away
from learning. It is time like this that parents need to step back and follow
their child's lead and recognise that different stages of development require
children quite naturally to focus on different interests and events.
One of the most difficult tasks for a parent is to engineer circumstances so
that children can make friends. Some children make friends naturally while
others can be slow to warm up around their peers. Some gifted kids can have
difficulty making friends among their own age group as their language or level
of interests don't match. In short, the world they inhabit, their interests and
the language they use can be so foreign to their peers that they have little in
Peers have a strong influence on gifted children, encouraging them to try new
activities and move away from their passions for a while. Parents need to take
an active role in encouraging peer group interactions - organizing joint play
sessions with young children and providing extra-curricular activities for
school-aged children. Often children become less involved in solitary activities
when they begin to interact with their peers who exert a strong influence on
their activity preferences.
Being part of the family
Family life can be a great leveler for gifted children. A sibling can bring a
talented child back to earth, letting them know that they may be a star at
school or in sport but their talent pulls no rank at home. Jobs need to be done,
games can played and big heads can be easily deflated. Sometimes in families
talented children can be given special privileges or compensation from doing
chores. This is unhelpful as the normal processes of family-life helps gifted
children stay firmly grounded and not get carried away with their own passions.
A well-rounded young person
Talented kids can become self-absorbed in their interests and passions to the
detriment of developing broader interests and in some cases social interactions.
With a little coaching and prompting parents can help children achieve balance
in their lives so that they don't become isolated and rely on a narrow set of
interests for their identity and self esteem. The prime aim of parents,
regardless of their children's talent is to help them become confident,
well-rounded members of whatever groups they belong to.
by Michael Grose
Michael Grose is Australia's leading parenting educator. He is the author of six
books and gives over 100 presentations a year and appears regularly on
television, radio and in print.
For further ideas to help you raise happy
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