10 Lessons I Learned from Parenting Gifted Children

Whether your child was only recently identified as gifted or if you are still learning to navigate the waters of gifted child parenting; you may find yourself facing challenges and struggles that you did not foresee in your child's educational adventures!  Two of our three daughters are gifted in multiple areas of study.  While there have been many rewarding experiences over the years, there have also been doubts and worries at times--and some lessons learned by the entire family!  Today, I wanted to share some of the lessons that I have learned after 14 years of parenting gifted children.

Gifted Children are Often Overlooked in School.  It seems maddening--but, the reality is; unfortunately, that many gifted children glide by without really being enriched nor encouraged by the school system.  In today's educational environment, the teachers are so focused on pulling up the struggling students to meet state testing standards that the gifted and high-achieving children find themselves a bit overlooked and underserved.  Little time, large class sizes, lack of gifted education funding and attention all come into play to create an environment where students who could be achieving so much more do not receive that boost from school staff.

Gifted Services are Available--if You Know Where to Look.  In Ohio, public school districts must identify gifted students.  Public school districts; however, are not required to provide gifted services to identified students.  Many districts do not have the budget, properly trained staff, or facilities for gifted education or enrichment.  This doesn't mean that all hope is lost--it just means that parents of gifted identified students must find their own services and activities.  There are tons of gifted education resources available online to connect families to programs, events, and enrichment activities in their area. It's also important to remember than learning facilities often known for tutoring, like Groza Learning Center, may offer gifted enrichment opportunities for families too.

Gifted Does Not Always Equal Straight A's.  This is a tough lesson for many parents to understand.  While a child may be gifted in math or language arts--he may not ace the class at school.  Sometimes this may be a problem with study skills or with motivation--sometimes with classroom boredom or focus issues.  Some gifted children are perfectly happy with "skating by" with minimal effort and earning mostly A's with a B or two. 

Gifted Children Won't Always Ask for Help.  I think this has been one of my daughter's greatest challenges over the years.  She has always, always wanted to do anything and everything on her own.  She has hesitated to ask teachers questions both in front of classmates and one on one.  In her words, she "does not want the teacher (or classmates) to think that she is stupid."  Literally--the fear of being laughed at or of disappointing the teacher keeps her from clarifying an assignment or clearing up a confusing point (or maybe even catching a mistake on the part of the teacher).  We have learned that seeking outside tutors or enrichment activities from a facility like Groza Learning Center takes away some of the anxiety and fear of seeking help.

When the Going Gets Tough...Some Gifted Kids Walk Away.  This has been the most maddening for me as a parent.  Most things come fairly easily to both of my daughters--and to most gifted students.   My girls have the good fortune to be fairly successful in school, sports, music, and art without a lot of effort.  The problem arises; however, when an activity does not come so easily.  When something new requires a lot of practice, a lot of studying, a lot more work than is usually required to see success.  Too often, I see very capable children walk away rather than dig in and push harder toward a goal. 

Gifted Children are Not Perfect Children.  I learned that other parents often think that we have things so much easier as parents.  Things come easier to our girls.  Since they are advanced in so many areas--it's easy to forget that they have shortcomings in other areas.  In reality, we face all of the same parenting struggles as other families.  We navigate the emotional roller coaster of tween and teen rearing.  Our daughters have the same struggles with friendships and girl drama as everyone else.  Our girls forget things, lose things, make mistakes, make poor decisions and silly choices.  They are not perfect. 

Pressure Cookers Must Release Steam--Or Something Really Bad Happens.  Both of my daughters set very, very high goals and expectations for themselves.  My youngest, especially, has a very harsh definition of failure.  Essentially, she feels that she "fails" if her results are less than perfect 100%.  Most gifted children tend to place a great deal of pressure upon themselves.  When you consider that internal pressure along with all of the outer expectations (whether real or perceived) of family, friends, teachers, coaches, etc.; plus the social pressures facing children--the child can easily turn into a pressure cooker!  It is critical that these little, pressure cookers have an outlet of some sort to release some of that steamy pressure before they blow up (or melt down).  One daughter runs miles a day.  While she also competes on her high school cross country team, her daily runs double as a no-pressure stress reliever.  My other daughter plays Celtic fiddle.   While she also plays traditional violin in her school orchestra; her Celtic fiddle lessons offer some down time.  She isn't getting graded or judged in this activity.  Both girls take some time for friends every week.  I won't say that the pressure is always perfectly regulated--we have had some overwhelmed tears over the years--but, we have tried to help them find outlets and balances!

Busy is Better.  We have found that our girls function best when they are busy.   They tend to be happier, more at peace, and more satisfied when they have a lot of things going on and can follow a relatively structured, consistent schedule.  We still encourage downtime from time to time--but, in reality, the girls are bored and anxious if they are not active or moving.

Intelligent, Athletic, Artistic, Talent Kids Need to Learn the Basics Too.  We often take basic skills for granted.  We somehow assume that, since a child is advanced, she doesn't need to be "taught" simple things.  Remember, nobody simply knows how to cook or clean or perform the basics like mowing the yard, or pumping gas or changing a tire--and gifted children are no exception.  This week, I realized that one of my daughters had never "cooked" a can of soup.   As she held the can of soup in her hand--I realized that the process of "cooking" the soup was as foreign to her as a foreign language.  Take the time to step away from higher learning, achieving, and accomplishing to "teach" some of the life skills that the kids may be missing!

Sleep.  Who Sleeps?  I have read sleep studies regarding the poor sleep habits of gifted children--and I have seen those issues from the start with our girls.  I think my middle daughter has slept about 72 hours in 14 years.  (Of course, I'm joking about that--but, there are days that it seems that she doesn't sleep at all.)  From non-stop thoughts to vivid nightmares to worries and fears--sleep does not come easily. 

While all of these situations may not apply to your family--you may be surprised to see than many do apply at some level.  It was surprising to me to learn how common some of these issues are for gifted families.

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