One of the things I really miss now that I am back at work is the #gtchat on Fridays. There are two – one in the morning (while I am at work), and the other in the afternoon (while I am playing soccer mom). It has been such a challenge making it to the chats these days.
But I did it today. Of course, I had to participate via my cell phone ( hard thing to do with twitter chats – at least for me) – but it was worth it.
The afternoon chat topic was “Why Gifted Kids Need Each Other” (get the complete transcript here) – definitely a topic I’m excited about.
Let me give you a little background….
I started working with gifted kids and parents about ten years ago, when the GATE coordinator in my district ask me to expand my parenting classes to include the social and emotional needs of the gifted. Being a gifted adult with two gifted daughters, I said…”Sure.”
Shortly there after, I was labeled the go-to girl in our district for all things related to emotional development in gifted kids. Fine with me – I happen to adore this population.
I taught more and more classes, met with more and more families, helped schools make difficult programming decisions and worked with teachers. All good.
After a while, I noticed a pattern in the children I was seeing – all of my gifted kids were intense. All of them. So I did more research to see if this pattern was seen in the literature. It was, despite the fact that many of my clinically trained friends held differing opinions on this.
A little more time went by and I decided it was time to expand my thoughts and training on this. Eventually, the work that followed became my first book – Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students (Profrock Press, Oct 1, 2010).
Now, what does this have to do with yesterday’s chat? Everything.
I think Deborah Mersino said it best – both in her own words, and when references an article she had read. In a nutshell, she said that gifted children tend to understand peer reciprocity earlier than their typical peers, resulting in feeling lonely and out of sync when the friends can’t meet their emotional needs.
She also stated that (based on an article she had read) highly gifted children tend to internalize problems. They appear social mature on the outside, but often feel lonely inside.
Yep on both counts.
THIS iis why I write the nonfiction I write – to adress this exact thing.
Both my girls have gone through this (my youngest still is). I have spent night after night putting my own words and strategies into practice to help my children learn the social skills needed to reduce that internal loneliness.
Yes, finding like-minded peers really help. But that, in and of itself, is not the answer I think.
The answer really lies in coaching your children – teaching them how to reduce their own internal emotional struggles. Things like:
- learning how to discuss their emotions
- learning what their own emotional spin looks like – what the triggers are
- finding strategies that enable them to redirect themselves, without the need for outside assistance in this regard.
- learning how to de-escalate and regroup – quickly, without the anxiety and panic that so often accompanies a rough patch
Teaching this stuff can be hard. And learning it is even harder. As my 10-year-old said to me last night, “Mom, you make it sound so easy. But really, it’s hard. Really really hard.”
She was relieved when I told her that I understood exactly how hard learning these strategies are. But, it is worth it. Every time my 14-year-old talks herself off the ledge without my help, I know. Every time she navigates through the girl drama typical of her age without experiencing an emotional roller coaster, I know.
A friend of mine ask me if I thought “therapeutic” parenting (don’t you just love that phrase) – or emotional coaching, as I call it – helped divert potential mental health concerns later in life.
Of course it does.
It takes a lot of work, and is more than a bit frustrating at times, but trust me…
The time is worth it!
What do you guys think? Are you active emotional coaches for your kids? Does it help?