Although some Gifted Children may be experienced as difficult – as all children can be, at times- they display a number of specific characteristics that are not commonly observed in other children, and that allow us to identify them. The following signs are good indicators that your child may be gifted:
-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 is unusual and rare for any gifted child to display all of these traits, many carry more than one and often, several.
The difficult behaviours experienced may result from expectations regarding what a Gifted Child should be or should do, often caused by a distorted conception of his inner reality, driven by the myths and fantasies of the collective mentality.
It is a reality that many myths still surround Giftedness, that can influence the way we interact with our Gifted Children. Gifted Children are often reduced to their intellectual capacity, and unjustly expected to excel in any given domain. While it is correct that the reasoning skills of the Gifted Child are unusual, if we wish to have a complete view of the reality of these children, we also need to take into account the other characteristics associated with Giftedness. I am illustrating below what Giftedness may look like in everyday life for a child:
- A high energy and sensitivity may mean that your bright Gifted Child is easily distracted, and has trouble to concentrate, making him unable to finish or complete an assignment at school, or in his life.
- A Gifted Child with a vivid imagination will regularly be bored and may prefer to invest in other worlds where she can invent and create at will. As a result, she may lose touch with the teacher’s lesson and miss some information given, making it difficult to be in-synch with the class’ tempo.
- Similarly, a Gifted Child who takes pleasure in questioning may end up struggling during school exams because she can see too many options to one given question, and may fail to give the expected, conforming answer.
As you can see, a number of parameters can intervene in the life of Gifted Children, intellectual potential is only one of them.
Often people are confused between a Gifted Child and a Prodigy. The Prodigy is an expert in one domain (for example, impressively skilled calculator, reader by age 3), the Gifted Child’s abilities are far-reaching and often connected to a number of different domains. There may not be any specific brilliance to Giftedness, which may give a false impression to untrained eyes that the child is unexceptional and does not qualify for the status of Giftedness.
Gifted Children will benefit from receiving opportunities to explore and learn to satiate their intense curiosity and need for understanding. You may provide them with regular learning experiences- learning a language, learning an instrument, or simply providing a variety of readings- that will stimulate them and satisfy their desire for knowing, while giving them possibilities to discover their gifts.
Being sensitive, open-minded and willing to understand your child’s specificity, as you strive to accept her unconditionally, is also paramount.
As an example, being aware that your Gifted Child is deeply sensitive, and may display uncommon behaviours in certain contexts, matters immensely; a Gifted Child, with an acute sensitivity to fairness and justice, may cry because another child has been treated harshly, poorly, or because he himself has been punished unreasonably by a teacher who did not have the sensibility to manage such a conflictual situation. What may have been judged as a childish behaviour coming from a 6-year old child then takes a whole different meaning with this increased understanding and perception.
Your willingness to try and see from your Gifted Child’s viewpoint, without assuming she is faulty or problematic, and to regard her with interested and gentle eyes will improve your own life as well as the life of your Gifted Child.
I can add that Gifted Children (as all children) need a clear framework and structure. They need to feel that you are in control, and can provide solid boundaries. The child must feel that the adult is the guide in their relationship and is holding their hand with confidence.
Gifted Children also need encouragement. They need to feel validated on a very regular basis, for their views are different from most and will provoke reactions from others. They will relax as they feel that you have their back and that different does not mean bad, that it is safe to be who they truly are in the world.
I offer guidance to parents who need to better understand what the implications of Giftedness may mean for their child and in their everyday life.
Together, we go through their parenting challenges and those of their child, and I assist them in turning her differences into assets. Empowering the parents by helping them clear outdated blockages, and beliefs and helping them to adopt new healthy ways of relating with their child is at the core of my practice.
Reframed and supported with appropriate strategies and mirroring, the Gifted Child’s distress/issues rapidly become manageable for her parents, and her differences turn out to be amazing strengths that do enrich the life of her family and community!
Yes, I work with Gifted Children on two different levels:
1- I have developed an Educational Play program for the one-on-one sessions with children. During the time I spend with one child, these stimulating activities (mental, physical, emotional planes) support the child in discovering new domains, in discovering himself, his interests and strengths, while allowing me to identify which arenas he may not be comfortable with (social shyness, refusal of effort masking a fear of failure, or perfectionism, for example). Knowing this, I can help him overcome his blockages via gentle and playful exercices, which will start dissolving his difficulties.
2- One Saturday afternoon every two months, I hold a Field-Trip for children, during which I invite a small group of children to explore a topic of global interest in fields ranging from the world history, arts, nature to philosophy. These workshops are designed with the intent that inquisitive and curious children can benefit from a special opportunity to meet other similarly passionate peers to relate with, and to forge new positive experiences of being with others. Typically, I provide an introduction to the topic of the day and give children a sense of context and the keys to later delve deeper into the subject. The rest of the afternoon is generally spent visiting a museum to illustrate the topic addressed, following which we come back indoors to share ideas and insights within the frame of a respectful discussion that I lead.
As a Gifted Child, I felt stressed by the imperatives of achievement that were put on me, and suffered from this short-cut of intellectual superiority that should automatically lead to success, often associated with Giftedness. This limited definition did not sufficiently nurture my sensibility, intuitive skills and profound need for appreciation.
Not having a correct mirror on the unusual skills and talents I had, I imagined that all children were also capable of the same things, and resentment for being pushed and under-valued at the same time quickly sneaked into my young-self life.
Lacking Gifted peers to feel at home with, I often felt out-of-synch with other children and questioned my normality, and sanity later during my teenage years.
In those early years, I wish I had experienced the kindliness of a benevolent mentor to guide me.