Gifted children pose a special challenge to parents. How should an extremely intelligent or skilled child be treated relative to a normal child? What is the best way to encourage a gifted child to grow in the healthiest way?
The ground rules are the same as with any other child: lots of love, complete and undivided attention when it’s requested, and a generally emotionally supportive and stable environment at home. From here, things get a bit more difficult for the gifted child. Gifted children have a number of difficulties that normal children don’t.
Gifted children typically struggle with socialization with children their age because of the large gap in abilities. Because of this, gifted children may feel isolated or alienated. Unfortunately, gifted children may frequently feel rejected by their peers as well. If left unchecked, isolation and rejection from peers can quickly handicap a gifted child’s self-esteem, which they will already likely struggle with due to being different from other children. Intervention is necessary, so it’s your job to try finding other gifted children for your child to socialize with. The internet is a great source for groups of parents who have gifted children, so be sure to look for other parents in your area.
Gifted children also frequently struggle with boredom or lack of stimulation. While normal children are sufficiently stimulated and educated by their school curriculum, gifted children can often coast through certain subjects at school without effort, leaving them disconnected and unable to apply real effort when it is required. Confusingly, gifted children may not excel in all subjects or even more than one, so building a good attitude toward applied effort is necessary. Reward effort at school, not intelligence. If your child doesn’t seem to be interested in school work, it’s probably too easy. Try finding some more difficult material, and teach it to your child after school, making sure to tie it in with what the child is learning in that subject during the day. Don’t rush, though: your child may be capable of great leaps forward in some subjects while still floundering in others.
Play is another area in which gifted children can be under stimulated relative to their peers. Many normal children will be endlessly entertained by TV or video games, but gifted children may be inattentive. In order to address their greater needs, puzzles or brain teasers are frequently a great way to entertain gifted children. By activating the part of their brain which is most developed, the children are able to get more fully engaged with the opportunity for play. Creative play is also a great way to get gifted children to really enjoy themselves while working on their strengths; blocks, model sets, and art can all encourage gifted children to feel as well as think.
Don’t forget to stick to fundamentals. Remember, your gifted child is still a child, and has a lot to learn about the world, even if they’re extremely smart. Unconditional love is always the main ingredient in successful parenting. Depending on how much free time you have, it may be worthwhile to seek out an expert in gifted education to give you more tips to help your child grow.