I recently received some concerns expressed by a woman who had read one of my articles on ‘gifted’ children. I have transcribed some of her thoughts below:
“I have a really hard time with the term, “Gifted” children. I know what it means but I always thought that it was the wrong way to express it, not only to the world but to the kids themselves, as well as the kids around them. I think all kids are gifted. What are your thoughts on this?”
This important question encouraged me to reflect more deeply on this term and topic that is often considered taboo and I am happy to elaborate in the hope that increased understanding will create more clarity, comprehension and acceptance.
Yes, I fully agree with you that each child has his or her own unique and special gifts.
When we use the term, ‘gifted’ it is never to imply, “better than.”
The reason the term exists is to acknowledge the psychic reality or unconscious processes present in certain children, such as:
Advanced intellectual ability
Verbal proficiency (coupled with the need to speak)
Deep, insatiable curiosity (asking endless questions)
Unusual creativity (without limits)
High energy plus intensity (mental, emotional, intellectual, logical thinking, striving for perfectionism, and a keen sense of humour)
While it unusual and rare for any gifted child to display all of these traits, many carry more than one and often, several.
Sadly, while those with disabilities are generally catered to within the school system, the difficulty gifted children experience is often greeted with skepticism and irritation, “After all, if they are so bright, they should be able to easily adjust!” In fact, many consider gifted children a concept versus a reality. Having personally experienced the challenges of trying to conform, I believe that it is a reality that needs to be addressed so that both gifted children and teenagers can be supported in understanding who they are, as well as their differences and given the right tools to allow them to blossom. The relief a gifted child feels in being understood and supported in finding their place within their community is immeasurable. Otherwise, their self-esteem and self-image is permanently dented in a way that prevents them being able to relax in their own skin.
You see, these children experience real challenges in learning how to relate to others, how to feel secure, how to be happy. If not supported, their desire to fit in can cause them to try and hide their gifts, creating additional stress, feelings of inadequacy and a lack of belonging they carry into adulthood. Boys, often find themselves stigmatized by their peers being labeled as eccentric, shy, or strange, that widen the gap within the group. I recall my own gifted brother being mocked by our cousins for his seemingly eccentricity, and passion for his unusual passions (anything to do with trucks, science and inventions or to do with construction). I had so much compassion seeing him act out his sadness and frustrations as he felt marginalized within his own family.
Since brilliance does not necessarily imply well-being, inner harmony and happiness, it is not wrong to give gifted children more time and attention and customized child mentoring; it helps the children, their parents and any involved with the child’s care to understand their special needs and address them kindly and consistently.
What may seem a blessing can feel like a curse both to gifted children and their families, until such children are supported in better understanding themselves and how to express themselves in the world. Answering such important questions as those listed below is important for everyone who wished to make a meaningful contribution to society:
How do I make a friend?
How do I calm myself down when I feel overly excited and enthusiastic?
How do I not scare other people away with my passion and intensity?
What career do I pursue when so many interest me?
How can I find peace within myself?
The word, ‘gifted’ is nothing to be afraid of, nor to be compared against, and neither are ‘gifted’ children. What is important is to be able to recognize the traits of the gifted so that they can be helped and integrated into our communities.
If this article answered some of your questions, or even raised others, I would love to hear from you.
Caring for the Gifted Child