What do you do when you discover (or suspect) that you, a fairly ordinary parent, have a child who is gifted? It can be a daunting process of discovery. You were one of the crowd throughout your schooling, able to fit in and to blend into the background when it suited you. You may feel that you simply do not have the experience to guide your child through the complex world of being different.
Remember that your gifted child is first and foremost just that—a child. She may grow up to be a genius (or maybe not) but she has to learn the art of being human as well. Being gifted, after all, is just one aspect of her personality. She may be in the top 1% in the WPPSI test, but that doesn’t mean that she has all the attributes that make for success. She also needs an ability to relate to people, to persevere, and to be self-aware.
By all means be proud of her budding talents, but don’t be overawed by them. You know far more than her about the business of living, and she needs your help now and into the future. Just because she is gifted, she is not able to make all her own decisions just yet.
Your gifted child will probably have good vocabulary and language skills. Use that advantage by seizing every opportunity to talk about anything and everything. He will certainly be curious, as any child is, but his curiosity may go well beyond anything you expect. Go with the flow of the conversation, and find answers to tricky questions together.
Stretch his skills by using sophisticated language. It is a fact that most gifted children don’t get challenged enough in their classrooms, and for now you can make up for that in conversation. Show an interest in his reading, whatever it is about, and demonstrate from your own habits how enjoyable reading can be.
However bright your child is, it is still a confusing world out there. Humans have a strong desire to fit in, and the gifted child will soon discover that she is different. Don’t be afraid to talk about her giftedness—it is a part of herself that she needs to understand, and to see in the context of being a person like everyone else.
Don’t set impossibly high expectations. You have no idea what your child will or will not achieve, and a sense of having disappointed a parent is a heavy burden to bear. Praise his achievements as they come along, but look for challenges where he needs to persevere—many gifted children get far too accustomed to instant success.
To bring up any child is a weighty responsibility but also a huge privilege. Bringing up a gifted child is no different. Like any other parent, you can only do your best to share with them the strategies for being a happy and complete human being. Enjoy these precious years.
Maria Cusick is a mom who often feels outsmarted by her near-teenage son; he obviously got all her husband’s genes! She writes about parenting topics in her articles for her growing online audience.