Loneliness and the Highly Gifted Child

While there are external indicators that signal distress in a child, such as family violence, emotional abuse or trauma, there is one condition that can remain undetected: loneliness.

Exceptionally Gifted Children typically experience a kind of inner tension that arises from the awareness of their acute sensitivity, uncommonness of their condition and the scarcity of those who can relate to them and guide them on their path. The company of other children can be profoundly unsatisfying and stressful to such a gifted child, whose desire for deeper meaning, fairness and logic, and the need to feel alive, mostly goes unmet. In fact, many such children seek out the company of adults, hoping for more nourishment in those who are more mature.

However, what happens when:

  • Inevitably, she realizes that even adults cannot keep up with the intensity of her drive and the relentless depth of her questioning?

  • At some point, he begins to crave the company of those his own age?

  • As he matures into a young adult, he is aware of never meeting a person such as himself?

How can we identify and heal this existential loneliness and the inner distress that is linked to it?

First, we can recognize the courage of such a gifted child: what a challenge it must be to keep moving forward in the hope that she will be able to find her way within society, to connect with another who shares a similar outlook and set of challenges!

As a professional in this field, I believe that it is essential to partner these children in the belief that they have their own unique value and gifts to share, and to embrace their differences versus seeing them as weaknesses. I have found that unconditionally acknowledging and accepting the full spectrum of these children’s feelings and experiences goes a long way in helping them to release tension, feel validated and begin to develop a healthy trust in themselves and another.

Active listening, with care and presence, managing your own discomfort and resisting the urge to provide a “quick fix” via a platitude or a “one-size-fits-all” solution, are ways to support your child in holding a healthy self-esteem and self-acceptance. Staying grounded and centered as your child expresses such wisdom and insights, unbelievably perceptive viewpoints and ideas, can assist in managing your own feelings of amazement or puzzlement at the brilliance of your child. This parental control also helps to assure her that this is a safe place to be seen and heard, and can safely put her on the path to growing up, without fear.

Another tip for parents is to process your own grief, disappointment and anxiety that your child is unlike other children, and will support you in seeing your child exactly as she is. You will be surprised as you lift your own fear thoughts off your child, you will recognize that they add nothing of value and may, in fact, have nothing to do with the reality of your child and how his life will turn out.

You may also consider finding a supportive role-model for yourself and your child who could alleviate the isolation and pressure of raising such an exceptional child.

Finally, I wonder, is there any such thing as a normality in a child? Are we doing our gifted children a disservice in trying to make them fit in by adjusting to the norm – or should we allow them to gift us all with the brilliance of their vision?

I’d be delighted to read any comments you would be willing to share in the section below.

Marion

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Marion Franc is a Mentor and Coach for gifted children, and their parents. To enquire about mentoring possibilities for yourself and your child, you can send an email at: info@caringforthegiftedchild.com

Caring for the Gifted Child

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11 thoughts on “Loneliness and the Highly Gifted Child

  1. It’s all fine to let the gifted child develop freely when they are young. But as they get into the teenage years and become adults, join the workforce, meet people, they must learn to cope with a world which doesn’t cater to their sensitivities. Therein lies the difficulty of managing my teenage son. We have been fortunate that the primary school was very flexible with his learning style. However, his high school is more structured and holistic which means he doesn’t have the free time to pursue his passion and specialties. He’s been skipping classes because they bore him so much, he has no motivation to wake up in the mornings. Luckily he enjoys all the non-academic activities in school. Everyday that he turns up at school (can be from 1 hour to even 4 hours late !) to meet his friends, do some sports and play music we are pretty relieved. His teachers chase him to hand up homework which he detests. I worry constantly how he will fare as an adult.

  2. I lived the role of watching the loneliness and isolation- very hard as a parent to watch. Then she changed high schools to a performing arts school. She has bloomed into another person, it is amazing!!!

  3. Gifted is a label with lots of baggage. Most kids start out exceptional but many lose that edge as they normalize into the systems around them. The pursuit of seats in gifted schools here is distorted by those with resources who get coaches and tutors to elevate scores to get one of the few available seats. Only the top <1% get seats. Yet urban, suburban, and rural environments are all very isolating. I had the good fortune to grow up in a new town that attracted lots of new families and benefited from a design that was very kid friendly. Our sons today live in a city with more than 10 million people, yet have no neighborhood friends. They attend excellent charter schools with long school days that leave little time for after school activities. Cost is another isolating factor for families stretched thin by essentials and limited income potential. Smart phones, computers, and game platforms draw them into less than ideal worlds that they feel in control of. I’m still searching for solutions as we enter the nerve wracking phase of college prep and the expenses of higher education. This isn’t just a gifted issue.

    • Hi Garrett,
      I read your message with attention. To react to your introducing comment, I do not believe one can lose one’s gift. You may unconsciously bury it, or adjust to external expectations, however, deep down this lively part of the self does not disappear- which is good news! Hence the mention of the courage and knowledge it takes to support the gifted child’s own way- with rules & limits- as a parent, and, the courage and willingness to honor oneself as an adult.
      Warmly,
      Marion

  4. This is a really valuable essay. Sometimes I think that loneliness shaped my whole live and how I react to everyone I meet and all my new experiences. I am only learning to undo my learned response as I parent my own gifted children.

  5. I wonder if this is where my daughter fits. She is 7 and so sensitive. It seems that she remembers every single wrong done against her and she is easily triggered by the tone of a comment, or simply a look from another child. She gets so upset when she feels she has been wronged and she brings up past wrongs on a regular basis.

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