Has your child been identified as a gifted student? If so, chances are, you sometimes feel desperate for advice on how to navigate this journey with your son or daughter. While your friends may look on with awe at your child’s achievements and think you have it made, you know the difficulties associated with raising a gifted child. Being a parent of a gifted student comes with its own set of challenges and trials, and it’s important to be ready to meet these challenges head on. You’ll find the following 10 tips helpful as you navigate the sometimes-murky waters of parenting your gifted child:
1. Have your child assessed.
If you have not already done so, it is important to have your child assessed. Inquire at your child’s school about exactly what is involved in assessment, and then begin the process of petitioning for consideration. This may involve getting a teacher’s recommendation, submitting samples of school work, and/or taking a written or oral test. There are no nationwide or statewide standards for identifying gifted students, so your school district will have its own standards for what qualifies a child as gifted.
2. Determine whether your child’s school has an educational program for gifted students.
Once your child has been through the assessment process, you may have the option of enrolling him in an academic program geared specifically toward gifted students. These programs will vary from school district to school district. Many times, these educational programs provide opportunities for the gifted student to be challenged in ways that he may not normally encounter in his regular classroom. This experience will also provide the chance for your child to interact with other gifted students with similar interests and personalities.
3. Look for extracurricular programs for gifted students.
Very often, the resources that schools are able to offer the gifted child are either limited or sub-par. If this is the case for your student, do not be discouraged! There are many other resources available to supplement your child’s school curriculum such as organizations that provide services to gifted students and their parents. You can check out the National Association for Gifted Children and SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted), for instance. A quick online search will also yield a number of other comprehensive websites that provide activities and other resources and support for the gifted student. Think outside the box and research what’s available, so that you can provide the very best resources available for your son or daughter.
4. Be realistic in your expectations.
As the parent of a gifted student, it is easy to become accustomed to extraordinary achievement from your child. While it is certainly exciting to see your daughter excelling in several areas, it is unreasonable to believe that she will be exceptional in all spheres of life. For example, the fact that your 7 year old daughter reads at an 8th grade level does not mean that she has the emotional maturity of an eighth grader. Don’t be surprised when your little girl bursts into tears when she doesn’t get to watch her favorite show! Although it’s important to acknowledge and praise your child’s strengths, it’s equally important that you’re there for her when she needs some extra help or support.
5. Advocate for your child.
As a parent, you are your child’s most important advocate. This is especially true in the classroom. Often, gifted students are expected to perform the same work as other students and are sometimes even asked to help the less advanced students catch up. Although there are some benefits associated with tutoring other students, you need to make sure that your child is getting the instruction and attention she deserves as well. Ask your child’s teacher if an individualized lesson plan can be implemented for your child. For instance, if your son is finishing his language lesson half an hour before the other students, perhaps a creative writing assignment would be beneficial. Don’t be afraid to speak up on your child’s behalf!
6. Allow opportunity for creative expression.
Very often, gifted students are incredibly creative. Your child may have a vivid imagination and appreciate visual and performing arts. Find an outlet for your child’s creativity. Maybe you could visit your local hobby supply store and purchase some drawing materials, or you could check to see if your community has a local children’s theatre. Odds are you will see your gifted student flourish when placed in artistically friendly environments.
7. Help your child sharpen his social skills.
You may observe that your gifted child’s personality often puts a strain on his or her social relationships. Positive traits, such as a strong sense of justice or an enjoyment of debate, may be perceived negatively by peers. As a result, many children perceive gifted students as being bossy or judgmental. You can help your child by encouraging him to listen to others or to put himself in the other person’s shoes. One way to do this is by role-playing social scenarios with your child.
8. Allow your child to struggle.
Let’s consider another common personality trait in gifted students: fear of failure. The gifted child is accustomed to learning things quickly and easily; however, he will eventually encounter something (a subject, an instrument, an assignment, etc.) that will prove difficult for him to master. When this happens, encourage and support him, but resist the urge to let him quit. When a child is allowed to struggle, one of two things will happen: either he will eventually achieve a measure of success, or he will fail. If he succeeds, he will feel the satisfaction of working hard and achieving success. If he fails, he will see that the world did not come to an end and that you still love him. Both are valuable lessons!
9. Talk to other parents.
It’s always helpful to talk to parents who are “in the same boat” you are in. Other parents of gifted students can be an invaluable resource. For example, if your daughter has read every book on her bookshelf and in the school library, ask a friend if her son would like to have a book swap. Or, when you see another parent struggling to get the school to provide adequate services for her gifted student, offer some encouragement or an approach that was successful when you encountered a similar situation. Parents of gifted children can find much support by talking to one another and sharing resources.
10. Encourage your child.
When your youngster looks back on his childhood, you want him to remember that you were his biggest fan. Every developmental stage will come with its own set of challenges, but with your love and support, your gifted student will flourish.