Guide to Parents with Gifted Teens
A common issue for parents of gifted children is to have a tendency to treat their kids as if they are already adults. To some degree this is a good thing. However, though they do possess maturity in terms of their reasoning skills, they still lack experience and the reinforcement associated with learning things by trial and error. Some mistakes they make at this age could be more devastating than if the mistakes occurred at a later chronological age.
Walking the Discipline Line With the Gifted Child
There is a difficult balance to maintain in wanting them to spread their wings and try new things, while needing to protect them from danger and risky behaviors. One good example is illegal drug use. Eventually, many kids will try using marijuana, roulette casino or other mind-altering substances as part of growing up and experimenting. Protecting a young child of twelve or thirteen from experimenting with drugs is vital, even if he has the developmental age of a much older child.
A parent may rightly feel that a gifted child of this age should not be allowed to be out late at night socializing with his older friends. However, if a special event comes up that requires a later night out, the parent needs to work out a compromise. Perhaps his dad accompanies him to a special concert or an older brother could do so, in order to allow him to attend.
The parents want the child to be accepted among his school peers and friends. When the child has skipped several grades and his social circle is much older, it is hard to prevent him from spending time with them, based on the principle that he has an earlier curfew. Making compromises is important to keeping the peace and maintaining fairness to the child.
Ideas on Making Compromises on Restrictions for the Gifted Child
Parents who are willing to be hosts to youth gatherings and activities are in a good situation for keeping track of the child’s activities. If the gifted child’s home could be the place for kids to gather, watch movies and play video games, this will ease the parents concerns about the child socializing with older kids.
If the opportunity exists in the community for contacting other families with gifted children, this is a great resource for socializing, discussions on rules used for other families and it will give the family a potential sounding board for raising these kinds of issues. Parents who take a strong interest in the child’s activities and sporting events will maintain the best possible relationship with the child.
Being open, approachable and available to discuss anything and everything with the child is so important, particularly as the gifted child maneuvers his way through puberty and the early teen years. He needs to know that he can discuss anything with the parent, without retribution. Showing love, support and a willingness to compromise where possible is key to a healthy relationship.
His safety, however, should not be compromised. Logical explanation and reasoning will help him to appreciate those situations where the parent must say no or prohibit him from participating in risky behavior or activities. There is a fine line between over-protectiveness and reasonable protection. In situations where disagreements occur, it may be helpful to get impartial input from a teacher, counselor or mentor, with the stipulation that the parent makes the final decision.
Problem Behavior in Gifted Kids
If the child is involved in behavior the parent does not approve of and the situation gets out of control, bringing in a third party, such as a counselor or therapist, may help get the situation back on track. For example, a child who violates the parents’ trust and sneaks out at night is an out of control situation. A counselor can mediate the issues and bring the family back from a dysfunctional relationship or pattern.
In summary, open communications is the key to a healthy relationship with a gifted child. Parents who can host events, participate in activities and accompany the gifted child so he can get involved in activities with his older friends will be rewarded with great rapport. When problems become too complex, involving an impartial person may help resolve family differences.
Stress Reduction Strategies for the Gifted Child
There are some techniques which will aid the gifted child in dealing with information overload and maximum sensory stimulation. His mind wants to take in everything at once, but his body cannot handle the demands of his asynchronous development at peak times.
Alert Parents Can Diagnose Sensory Overload in the Young Gifted Child
The very young gifted child will generally give more obvious cues to sensory overload those results in undue stress. He may become louder, excited or abnormally energized or may show physical signs like fidgeting, jumpy behavior or may act out by yelling or becoming belligerent.
Take him to a quiet place, away from others, noises and distractions. Give him some quiet time to rest and relax. Even a young gifted child can learn relaxation techniques to calm himself, such as deep breathing, yoga moves and meditation. Before he gets too agitated, help him understand the need to take a break and bring his stress down immediately.
Older Gifted Children and Anxiety Responses
As the child matures, she will become more adept in seeking relaxation when she starts to feel the high stress triggers on her own. Sometimes, simple movements and tips are not enough to reduce stress or prevent her anxieties from adversely affecting her disposition.
She may benefit from learning more complex techniques. Tai Chi and Chi Gong are Chinese relaxation arts that even a nine- or ten-year-old gifted child could develop proficiency with and benefit from as a relaxation mechanism. There are some simple moves that will lower the child’s blood pressure in a matter of seconds, once she learns to do them correctly.
Other great physical release tools include self-message and the use of a hand massage tool that soothes muscle tension. Gentle stretching movement is also good, but the child should not be encouraged to begin an exercise routine shortly before going to bed, as this can interfere with falling asleep. Soothing music can be used independently or in combination with relaxation exercises and arts. It may be a good idea to establish a set routine for winding down each night with a relaxation set or series of activities.
Other Remedies for Relaxing the Gifted Child
It is never a good idea to give the child medication or drugs to induce relaxation. That being said, healthy substances can be used to invoke a relaxation response. Warm milk, green tea or chamomile is noted for their stress reduction properties. Keep in mind that some herbal remedies are as strong as drugs and need to be carefully researched before use for anyone. Work with the child’s pediatrician if efforts to help the child relax do not seem to be effective.
Help the older child set up a computerized calendar to track all her activities each week. She will feel more in control of her days and less likely to stress out over missing an appointment or assignment. The teenager can work with more sophisticated programs like project management software for big assignments that have lots of smaller tasks.
Allow the child to rest when he wants to rest. Make sure he has plenty of time to get the necessary sleep he needs to rejuvenate himself. Vitamin supplements are also a good idea for children who don’t tend to eat balanced meals, which is most of them.