Helping Children Cope with their Giftedness
So your child has finally been through the identification and testing process and has been identified as gifted? What now? How can you make sure that you are doing what you need to do for your child in order to encourage him or her to become a gifted adult?
Chances are that if your child has been identified as gifted, you were already doing what you needed to do as a parent to encourage his or her talents. However, there are specific items (as noted by Coleman & Cross (2005)) that can continue to encourage giftedness within your child. Also, the gifted child faces many different challenges within the world that a regular education student usually will not have to face. However, this does not mean that gifted children as whole fall into the stereotype of the emotional disturbed person that is “different from all the rest. Actually, as noted by Coleman & Cross (2005) on p. 163, it is “clear that gifted children have a similar, and possibly lower, incidence of severe emotional problems when compared to groups of nongifted children.” This is particularly significant as there are parents who worry that if their child is not completely “normal” that their child will be unhappy. This is usually not the case.
However, children do have to deal with the stereotypes that go along with being gifted. Perhaps one of the best facts to come out of gifted research is that the gifted do not easily fit into stereotypes, especially negative ones. Also, there are inherent conflicts within a system that expects behavior and social norms of all of its members, and members who are different will be hyper aware of this. As a result, gifted children often receive a mixed message from their society: we value your talents, but we really do wish you could be more like everybody else.
This is a mixed message that you could also send as a parent and special care must be taken so that your child does not feel as if he or she is not valued. It is not to say that it is not necessary to teach your child certain codes of behavior, but it is okay for your child to express his or herself in his or her own way. Just because your son is a boy does not necessarily mean he has to play baseball and so on.
This brings us to another issue for gifted children: gender expectations. The condition of our gender is so ingrained within our society that it impossible for anyone, much less a gifted individual that is hyper aware of expectations, to escape them. This is particularly an issue with gifted girls. Female gender roles are usually opposite of the expectations society has for gifted individuals. For example, a gifted student is expected to be assertive and independent, while a female is supposed to be passive and dependent. This is an issue that you may have to discuss with your child because it is not an easy one to deal with.
Another issue that your child may have to deal with is the fact that they may not really be encouraged to be proud of their talents and accomplishments. Our society wants the usefulness of their talents, but then wants them to be humble about them. Again, this paradox can send mixed signals to gifted students. As Coleman & Cross (2005) state “[t]o ask gifted children to deny their competence when confronted with real evidence of it is to ask them to create a fictional view themselves” (p. 168).
While these are all real issues that your child may have to deal with, know that your child should be able to deal with the issues that arise and still grow up to be a well-adjusted adult. Especially if you let your child
know that he or she will always have your support.