Did your child start reading at an early age? Do they show a pronounced interest in learning new things? Are they good with puzzles, creative, and highly active? These are signs a child could be gifted.
The term “gifted” can hold a lot of weight. It may invoke ideas of pressure to help the child fulfill their full potential and make use of those gifts. But parents and teachers alike might struggle with how to support and encourage a gifted child properly, without putting undue stress on them or alienating them. With that in mind, here are some proven ways you can help your child make use of their gifts without overdoing it..
Parents aren’t given an instruction manual when they have kids, and especially not gifted kids. A gifted child’s behavior might not always be easy to manage or even recognize — if they feel unchallenged or understimulated, they may act out or get upset. One of the first things you should do when looking to support your gifted child is learn how they think and understand the unique struggles they may be dealing with. Gifted children often require different requirements, and finding out what those are will be an important first step. Start by speaking to your family doctor or specialist, read up on gifted children, and find forums or groups specifically for parents of gifted children.
Nurture Their Interests
One of the best and easiest ways to support your gifted child is to help them develop their interests. If they are obsessed with a topic — space exploration, frogs, watercolor painting, sculpture — give them the encouragement and tools they need to explore those interests. Take them to the library, find a learning or play group for children with similar interests, or even watch YouTube videos or documentaries on the subject together. You could also create a private reading space in the house just for them, or sign them up for music lessons if they’re interested in attending. Engaging in these kinds of activities not only helps them learn and find out more about themselves, it also gives them a chance to connect with other people, including parents, and bring them closer together.
Discuss Your Child’s Needs
Supporting a gifted child is a lot easier when you don’t have to do it alone. Being gifted can actually be a form of special needs, as your child may have requirements not shared by all other students. Talking with their teachers so the school can be aware of the child’s needs can help them make more of their education, perhaps by moving to a higher grade or getting more challenging assignments.
Gifted children can also encounter some social struggles, as they may come across as “different” and have difficulty fitting in with other students. Some states even mandate that schools should employ a counselor for cases just like this. If your child’s school has a counselor, it may be beneficial to have them meet with a counselor on a regular basis, so they can help them understand and cope with their unique circumstances.
Socialize With Other Families
While you’re supporting your gifted child, it can be just as important to support yourself at the same time. Having some sort of structured social time where you can socialize with other families who have gifted children can benefit both you and your child. Since gifted children may struggle with fitting in, having a group of peers where they can be accepted can be a major boost — and parents can share the joys and struggles of raising gifted children, something all parents may not be able to understand. This could also be a way to broaden your child’s horizons a little and get them involved with new and interesting opportunities.
Recognize Your Child’s Strengths and Weaknesses
It may seem self-evident, but it’s worth remembering that not every child is going to be gifted in the same way. Not every gifted child is the next Einstein or chess genius. Every child has their own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Don’t try to force your child into a role or stereotype they weren’t meant to fit in — and especially don’t compare them to other gifted children, as this can cause all kinds of bad feelings and be counterproductive. Focus on supporting your child’s interests and strengths and, most importantly, don’t expect them to be good at everything.
Don’t Push Them to Excel
For parents eager to see their children succeed, it can be easy to get overzealous and push them a little too hard by putting academic pressure on them and signing them up for too many extracurricular activities. This places undue stress on kids to live up to their parents’ expectations, and can make them unhappy, anxious or depressed. Support your gifted child, but remember to give them room to be their own person.