Friday, December 27, 2013

Top ten blog posts and articles about gifted children in 2013

There were so many great articles and blog posts in 2013 about gifted children and adolescents, each covering a range of topics. Yet, when I narrowed down my list of favorites, they all reflected the theme of advocacy. Some of the articles provided greater understanding related to specific educational or emotional needs. Others directly challenged misconceptions and inadequate educational opportunities. The articles range from personalized reactions and opinions to formal NAGC position papers. So here they are:

America and its high potential kids

GIFTED should not be a dirty word: Oops, I said it...again

Can't we all just get an education?

Why I believe in gifted education in public schools

Gifted and talented: Generally from the upper class and capable of solving their own problems - Really?

Actually, Mr. Godin, we ARE born this way

Medical misdiagnosis in the gifted

Twice exceptional - smart kids with learning differences

Ensuring 2e students receive appropriate services

Mandated services for gifted and talented students

With so many to choose from, I had to leave out many wonderful posts, and apologize if one of your favorites was overlooked. If you want to suggest a blog post or article that really stood out this year, please add it to the comments section.

And thanks to all of you who have followed my blog during its first year. Starting this blog was a new experience for me, and I have learned a lot... and am still learning! If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Best wishes for a healthy and happy new year.

Gail

Friday, December 13, 2013

Five hurdles gifted college students must overcome

Most gifted adolescents breathe a sigh of relief when they enter college. Finally, they will be with their intellectual peers. Finally, they won’t have to hide their abilities. Finally, they will be able to fully, unapologetically immerse themselves in their interests.

Yet, gifted college students often face unexpected hurdles that must be overcome.
The academic and social challenges they encounter can lead to self-doubt and uncertainty. Any nagging doubts and fears that developed in high school can intensify in college, as gifted students take a sobering inventory of their limitations and face a harsh dose of reality. This leads to questions about their abilities, their choices, and even their sense of self.

Gifted students (and their parents) should assume that some self-reflection and second-guessing will emerge during college. Their doubts and fears may surface as one or more of these questions:  

1. What if I make the wrong decision?

Gifted students, often blessed with multiple talents, are now faced with selecting a career and eliminating alternative options. While all college students must ultimately choose a career path, gifted individuals frequently scrutinize their decisions, sometimes obsessing over the complex array of variables in every outcome. They ponder over the existential implications of roads not taken, and are saddened about abandoning earlier dreams and ambitions.

Gifted students need to grieve the loss of career choices as they narrow their focus. Some may have honed a skill, practiced an instrument, or pursued a goal for years, and now must put this passion aside. They need to appreciate how they can incorporate these interests as hobbies throughout their lives. They may hopefully recognize that most choices are not irrevocable, and the decision-making process itself is a learning experience leading to greater wisdom and self-awareness.  

2. What if I’m not the best?

After riding a wave of success in high school, gifted teens may be surprised to find an abundance of equally smart and gifted peers at college, especially if they attend a highly selective school. Suddenly, they are no longer the smartest kids on the block, and don’t receive frequent recognition for their abilities. In fact, they may not be noticed much at all. This sends some students into a tailspin, as they search for a sense of identity and purpose.

Gifted students can navigate this crisis by focusing on what they enjoy and what is personally meaningful, and finding a niche where they can excel. They may need to relinquish the expectation that they must stand out, and realize that self-worth does not hinge on recognition from others. Eventually, they may feel pride in accomplishments achieved among an environment of true peers.

3. What if I fail?

Despite easy grades in high school, many gifted students face greater academic demands than anticipated once they attend college. While the stimulation of an engaging, thought-provoking class is a welcome relief for some, anxiety about exams, papers and presentations can be overwhelming for those who doubt their competence. Not only does this tap into concerns about grades, it also challenges their sense of self. If I’m so smart, how could I do poorly on this? What will others think if I fail? What about all of the people I’ll let down if I don’t do my best?
  
The fear of failing, or even performing below expectations, creates added stress and the potential for burn-out, particularly for gifted students with perfectionistic tendencies. Many need to confront unrealistic goals, and learn to accept their limitations. Parents can provide reassurance that perfection is not expected, that their child’s well-being is more important than transcripts, and that they will love and accept their child regardless of their grades. 

4. What study skills?

Many gifted teens coast through high school. Although they may take difficult classes, receive good grades, and participate in extra-curricular activities, many exert minimal effort and still achieve success. Their intense passion is reserved for what interests them most, and they invest little energy in the remainder of their classes. Once they get to college, though, some gifted teens realize that they have never developed study skills. They cannot just skim through a textbook before taking an exam and expect to have mastered the material. Finally confronted with some challenging classes, they now must actually work hard for the first time, learn how to study, and even ask for help (something they may never have had to do). Some perform poorly for the first time in their lives, an experience that can create surprise, confusion, anxiety and self-doubt.  

Gifted college students may feel lost at first, since they may have never had to struggle in school. They may resist asking for help, avoid difficult courses, and even feel some shame because of their lack of preparation. They need support and guidance toward developing study skills and the resilience to take on challenging work. Although they may initially resent having to work hard or seek guidance, they may grudgingly admit that challenging, difficult classes are far superior to an easy, watered-down curriculum.

5. Where do I belong?

Some gifted teens finally experience a sense of belonging when they go to college. However, others never feel that they fit in. Many gifted teens are introverted, highly sensitive and emotionally intense, and are used to feeling different, and at times, alienated from peers. After anticipating that college would provide a place where they would find like-minded peers, they may experience disappointment. Gifted children who graduate high school early and start college at a young age, and those who manifest asynchronous development (whose emotional maturity lags behind their intellectual abilities), may feel even less prepared for the social demands of college.

Gifted students who feel isolated need to accept that their differences make them unique, and that they may need to work a little harder to find friends. They need to recognize that introversion is common, and that many teens experience social anxiety and shyness. Involvement with clubs, organizations and other activities where they can find peers with similar interests can also be a helpful way to connect with others.

Rather than obstacles, these hurdles can lead to new paths for future development.

Parents should assume that their gifted college student may grapple with one or more of the above questions. They can try to prepare their child as much as possible for what to expect, and offer support as they navigate through uncharted territory. However, counseling is helpful when these hurdles create an impasse, and when the student shows signs of depression, panic and obsessive thinking, persistent self-doubt, complaints of low self-esteem, or social anxiety and isolation. However, most gifted college students are able to grow through confronting and overcoming these new challenges. Rather than obstacles, these hurdles can lead to new paths for future development.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Gifted children need a place to belong

A recent article about education highlighted the difference between creating an environment where students belong rather than one where they just fit in. The author, Kimberlee Kiehl, noted problems in a system where "most teacher education programs, not to mention the entire education culture in this country, push us toward making children fit in."

What is the difference between belonging and fitting in?

At first glance, they sound the same. A sense of belonging comes from feeling welcome, comfortable, appreciated, understood, and yes, fitting in. We are nourished and enriched by these relationships. But fitting in without truly belonging is different. When we force ourselves to fit in, we conform, restrain, mold, channel and direct energies to meet a standard. Sometimes it comes easily. Other times, it’s the old square peg in a round hole dilemma.

Gifted children learn about fitting in from an early age. This starts in preschool, when their interests and energy level may differ from that of their peers. They may be encouraged to sit in circle time and work on group projects when they would rather build castles or paint. Preschool teachers may be alternately delighted and stymied by a gifted child's precocious and unpredictable behavior. Some gifted children exhibit early signs of overexcitabilities and heightened sensitivity, with intense reactions to situations that other children might take in stride. They may start to feel somewhat different from the other children, but lack the developmental maturity to understand why they don’t quite fit in.

In elementary school, gifted children often experience frustration with rigid classroom routines. Typically expected to adapt to the curriculum, they are frequently offered supplementary “busy work” to keep them occupied. Many teachers, overwhelmed with the demands of differentiated instruction and a range of learning needs, have little opportunity to challenge their gifted students, and are sometimes relieved when these children remain quiet, passing time with a novel in their laps. When gifted children are less patient, parents may receive complaints about their disruptive or distracting behaviors. IQ testing may be arbitrarily delayed, and options for acceleration are frequently discouraged. Gifted pull-out programs are often highly structured, with an expectation that all gifted students have similar needs.

Even more troubling is the discomfort and sense of alienation many gifted children experience with peers. They may not appreciate how their differences set them apart, and may be puzzled when their heightened sensitivity or enthusiasm for offbeat interests is met with disdain. At worst, they may become a target for bullying. Gifted adolescents are acutely aware of their differences, and struggle with decisions related to conformity and social acceptance. Attempts at disguising their abilities are common, particularly among girls. Others refuse to compromise their values, even if it results in increased isolation. A variety of factors contribute to feeling different, including: intellectual interests beyond their years, impatience with peers who grasp learning at a slower pace or lack an affinity for social justice issues, asynchronous development manifest in less mature social skills, or intense feelings and oversensitivity.

Gifted children and adolescents often wish for a place where they can belong. Many are accustomed to seeing themselves as outliers, different from the norm, and out of sync with children their age. Yet, they hunger for both intellectual and social connection with peers who understand their view of the world, who appreciate their perspective, and who just “get it” the same way they do. Some gifted children are fortunate enough to discover a group of like-minded peers in school, particularly in schools where ability grouping is offered. More often, they must turn to extra-curricular interests or activities to feel a sense of belonging.

Parents of gifted children may need to advocate in schools for more opportunities where their children can feel a sense of belonging. This may involve subject or grade acceleration, compacting (where groups of gifted children work together in classrooms), or advocating for ability grouped classes. Extra-curricular interests that stimulate their creativity, curiosity, sense of discovery, strategic planning abilities, or sense of purpose (which may occur on or off the school grounds) are particularly appealing. Some examples include: art classes, chess, theatre, robotics, music groups, science classes, social justice initiatives, or volunteer activities. Summer camps focusing on academic or creative interests can provide a safe harbor where they can openly express who they are while exploring their abilities. Many extra-curricular activities, particularly camps, are expensive, although financial assistance is sometimes available. Families who cannot afford these options for their children, or who live in communities with limited resources may need to be particularly vocal advocates in the schools, since “finding a place to belong” is so critical to each child’s well-being.

What has helped your gifted child find a place to belong? Please let us know your ideas!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

When does therapy benefit gifted adolescents?

Gifted adolescents are no more prone to social or emotional difficulties than other teens.1  Yet, the burden of feeling different from peers, and attempts to offset stigma and rejection, create a unique set of conflicts. At a point in their development when social acceptance seems essential, many gifted teens go to great lengths to hide their abilities from others. Some try to “dumb themselves down,” avoiding classes that might brand them as “nerds.” Others struggle with how to remain true to themselves, while still adapting to the social norms around them. Social challenges are particularly difficult for adolescents who show signs of asynchronous development, and whose social skills lag behind their intellectual abilities. Even those gifted teens who achieve popularity still may be acutely aware of their differences and attempt to conform, sometimes immersing themselves in social and extra-curricular activities at the expense of academic pursuits. They sometimes later regret that they “sacrificed” their interests or ambitions to gain approval.

Gifted adolescents often struggle with being gifted

Regardless of their level of social comfort, gifted adolescents often struggle with traits frequently associated with giftedness. These may include perfectionism, harsh self-criticism, oversensitivity, fear of failure, anxiety about performance, and even despair over injustices affecting others. Some develop cynicism about an education system that has failed to challenge them, and become underachievers. Others may feel ashamed of their so-called “gifts,” claiming they are undeserving of accomplishments earned so easily. They may be conflicted about career goals, torn between their desires and what family and society expect, and worry that they will not live up to their potential.

Therapy can offer both support and challenges

Therapy can create a safe haven where gifted adolescents can receive the support, understanding and the appropriate challenges they need to surmount difficulties associated with giftedness. Trying to fit in, juggling others’ expectations, and sorting out an array of conflicting messages are commonplace for gifted teens. Participation in therapy does not mean that something is seriously wrong; therapy is a resource for achieving greater self-awareness and overcoming obstacles to personal growth. (See APA for more information about psychotherapy).

Adolescents’ cognitive abilities, attitudes about being gifted, and the family’s and school community’s impressions about their giftedness influence feelings about themselves. Therapists need to consider the interplay between the child's giftedness and specific emotional, social, family or academic problems. Webb2  and others in the literature 3,4,5,6 have also emphasized how an individual’s giftedness needs to inform treatment planning. 

Therapists can help teens manage the social and emotional "baggage" often associated with giftedness. Common characteristics such as introversion, oversensitivity, asynchronous development, and attunement to moral injustice can make adolescence even more trying. Other examples include social anxiety, perfectionism, harsh expectations of self and others, underachievement, family demands, sibling conflicts, unresolved distress related to bullying or peer rejection, shame associated with failed accomplishments, and ambivalence about career goals. Counseling can offer support and a clear perspective when these burdens seem overwhelming. 

Giftedness must be considered in diagnosis and treatment

Sometimes gifted adolescents suffer from emotional problems that any teen might face, such as depression, anxiety, or an addiction. Therapy is even more essential under these conditions. Nevertheless, a child’s giftedness needs to be considered in any diagnostic evaluation and throughout treatment. Webb2  has highlighted how gifted individuals can be misdiagnosed by practitioners who fail to appreciate the effect giftedness has on an individual’s social, emotional and cognitive functioning. (Recently, SENG has launched the SENG Misdiagnosis Initiative to educate pediatricians and other health care professionals about the risks of misdiagnosis.)

If giftedness is secondary to more pressing psychological, interpersonal or family problems, a therapist can still remain cognizant of how the teen's intellectual strengths, and traits associated with giftedness may influence their behaviors and emotions. While identifying psychological symptoms of distress is beyond the scope of this article, some general warning signs can include: withdrawal from family and friends, sadness and tearfulness, comments related to hopelessness, increased anxiety, angry outbursts, threats to harm self or others, difficulty concentrating, insomnia or sleeping a lot more than usual, unexplained physical symptoms, significant weight loss or gain in a short period of time, change in friendships, problems at school or with the law, intoxication or signs of drug use. (For further information about symptoms, you can visit www.psychcentral.com. If you need to find a therapist, often the best resource is to check with your child’s pediatrician for a referral.) 

Gifted adolescents often enter therapy with hesitation, but soon welcome feeling understood. Their acute self-awareness, tendency to scrutinize themselves and others, and willingness to engage in complex debate create both opportunities and challenges during therapy. Therapy can help them navigate this difficult passage through adolescence, and provide further tools for growth and development.

This paper was adapted from the following article: Post, G. (2013). Counseling gifted adolescents: Integrating social and emotional aspects of giftedness into treatment. National Association of Gifted Children Counseling and Guidance Newsletter, 9, 13-14

References:

Neihart , M. (1999). The impact of giftedness on psychological well-being: What does the empirical literature say? Roeper Review, 22, 10-17.
2 Webb. J., Amend, E., Webb.,N., Goerss, J., Beljan, P., & Olenchak, R. (2005). Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of gifted Children and Adults: ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, Aspberger's, Depression, and Other Disorders. Tucson, AZ: Great Potential Press.
3  Grobman, J. (2009). A psychodynamic psychotherapy approach to the emotional problems of exceptionally and profoundly gifted adolescents and adults: A psychiatrist’s experience. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 33, 106-125.
4 Jacobsen, M. (1999). Arousing the sleeping giant: Giftedness in adult psychotherapy. Roeper Review, 22, 36-42.
Moon, S. & Thomas, V. (2002). Family therapy with gifted and talented adolescents. Journal of Advanced Academics, 14, 107-113.
Silverman, L. (Ed.) (2000). Counseling the Gifted and Talented. Denver, CO: Love. 


  


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Don't wait to get your gifted child tested!

Accurate identification of giftedness is necessary to determine what specific academic services your child needs. It also provides documentation when advocacy is warranted. While states and districts have varying requirements for gifted identification (see NAGC for more), many districts circumvent these requirements by creating roadblocks and delays. Yet, rather than request testing when they suspect their child is gifted, some parents just wait for the school to decide if testing is indicated. And some refuse to grant approval for any testing at all. 

Why do some parents refuse testing for their child?

Insufficient information. Most parents know their own child, but don’t have a classroom full of children against which they can compare abilities. While they may suspect that their child is gifted, they may not feel justified advocating for testing. “Who are we to think our child is so smart?”

Parents may trust the school’s judgment when determining whether their child should be tested. Yet, in many schools, gifted children may be overlooked, and teachers and administration often convince parents that their child is already receiving appropriate services. There is also a common misconception that bright children have been prepped before they start school, and their strengths will dissipate over time. As a result, many schools arbitrarily delay gifted evaluations until students are well beyond third or fourth grade, even though testing children between the ages of five and eight is considered ideal. 

Apathy. Some parents believe that the “gifted program” in their district is a waste of time. Maybe it just involves extra homework. Perhaps it is only an hour pull-out a week. Some may have tried to advocate in the past and met with such resistance that they gave up. Others may feel it is not worth the time and effort, and make the decision to enrich their child’s education on their own. In these situations, parents have been led to believe they have little recourse to change the system, and cannot request additional services for their child. 

Concerns about consequences.  Parents worry about what they might find out from the evaluation. “Could our child also have a learning disability? What if he or she is not as bright as we thought? How will we explain to our child that he or she is gifted?” These concerns sometimes deter parents from requesting an evaluation, since they have little guidance about how they will cope with these possible outcomes. 

Most schools fail to help parents understand the benefits of testing, how it can aid them with developing a plan geared toward appropriate academic instruction, and how they can assist the parent and child with their reactions to the test results. And when school staff are either misinformed or philosophically opposed to gifted identification, they may persuade parents to refuse an evaluation. It may be suggested, for example, that their child could be traumatized if he or she “fails” the testing, or might be ostracized by peers for being different if identified as gifted.

Should parents decline testing because of these concerns?

While these concerns may be reasonable to consider at first, the benefits of testing usually outweigh any initial doubts. Here are some reasons for moving ahead with testing:

1.  An evaluation will provide you and the school with a wealth of information about your child’s strengths, weaknesses and academic needs. An IQ test offers more than just a number; your child’s abilities are assessed in a range of areas that will help you and your school with academic planning. (For a helpful description of IQ testing, see the NAGC overview on testing.) The pattern of your child’s performance also provides important information about how he or she approaches new and challenging situations. Does he plan carefully and take his time? Does she rush or become frustrated if challenged? The pattern of responses is particularly important when evaluating gifted children, because many demonstrate large differences in scores between subtests. (For a great discussion of this, see Linda Silverman’s article.) A skilled psychologist can help you understand the reasons for any discrepancies and how to integrate this information into a meaningful academic plan.

 2.  Your child cannot “fail” the test. It is a measure of relative strengths and weaknesses based on age-based norms. Despite common misconceptions, you cannot “hothouse” your child to do well on these tests; studying and preparation are not required. IQ testing occurs in a one-to-one situation that asks a child to try out new skills, and stops each section of the test before it becomes too stressful. The psychologist typically tries to put the child at ease, and many children enjoy the individual attention they receive.

If your child’s overall IQ score does not meet criteria for gifted services, you can still request enrichment for your child in those areas of strength identified by the evaluation. If the score was close to the cut-off, typically an IQ score of 130, you may want to see if your child could be reevaluated the following year, especially if the psychologist noted any circumstances that might have contributed to an artificially lower score. For example, some gifted children are not identified because of fine motor skill weaknesses, or a tendency to ponder over the correct response (decreasing their score during timed tests), which can deflate their overall score. Common situations such as insufficient sleep the night before, hunger, or frustration over missing recess can influence test performance. Underidentification also occurs when children come from underprivileged or culturally different backgrounds, or where English is spoken as a second language. 

3.  It is worth getting an evaluation, even if the “gifted program” in your school district is less than adequate. Some parents doubt the benefits of the “gifted program” in the school and think it is not worth the effort. Even if the “program” lacks credibility, gifted identification still may offer your child options that might not be available without the label. The information the evaluation provides is still valuable in terms of understanding your child’s abilities, and can aid with advocating for improved individualized services. It is also useful should you move, transfer your child to another school, or decide to homeschool your child.

4. Fears about what a gifted evaluation will uncover are common. Most parents eventually learn to face these fears and find that the test results are a meaningful overview of their child's strengths and weaknesses. The evaluation may validate what the parents already suspect, but also may provide some surprises in terms of exceptional abilities, untapped strengths, or learning problems. Many learning disabilities remain undetected among bright and gifted children because their intellectual strengths allow them to compensate for their difficulties. By evaluating your child at a relatively young age, any suspected learning differences can be identified and hopefully addressed through appropriate instruction.

Concerns about explaining test results to a child strikes fear in many parents. While it is best to avoid sharing an actual IQ score with a young child, it is certainly helpful to explain findings in terms of strengths and weaknesses, especially since this most likely confirms what your child already suspects. You can explain what it means to be gifted, and place it in a context your child can understand. If you are concerned about isolation from peers, gifted identification will do little more than confirm what your child and his or her peers already know.

Don’t wait until the school recommends that your child get an evaluation. 

If you suspect your child might be gifted, find out the procedures for requesting an evaluation. These guidelines should be available through your school district. Keep in mind that some children are less likely to be “noticed” by teachers and referred for evaluation. Children who are frequently overlooked for testing can be children of color; children from underprivileged, lower socio-economic backgrounds; less verbal, visual-spatial learners; non-English speaking children; gifted children with other disabilities (twice exceptional gifted learners); and less cooperative students. Do not assume that teachers or administrators will automatically recognize your child's abilities or refer your child for testing.

Some teachers and schools are proactive about prescreening students for giftedness and others are not. Even group ability tests used to prescreen for gifted evaluations can miss students who are easily distracted, become anxious during testing, or who are already bored with school. As a parent, you will need to keep this on your radar, and advocate for individualized testing when needed. Gifted identification is an important first step toward ensuring that your child receives an appropriate and meaningful education. It may be up to you to set the wheels in motion!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

For parents of musically gifted children: Get out of your own way so your child can flourish

Part Two: Get out of your own way so your child can flourish.

Parents of gifted young musicians can support their child’s musical growth by understanding their own reactions and feelings. As noted in Part One, parents often experience strong emotions in response to their child’s musical talent, and these emotions warrant scrutiny and management. By understanding their feelings and motivations, parents can avoid counterproductive responses and behaviors that might interfere with their child’s progress.

As hard as it might be to admit, most parents of musically gifted children experience some emotional reactions that could negatively influence their child’s progress. To be blunt, parents sometimes project their own needs, wishes and anxieties onto their child’s study, creating unnecessary confusion and conflict for their child. The potentially negative effects these emotions might have can be mitigated by recognizing, understanding and challenging the feelings and the behaviors they elicit. Some questions to consider include:

  • Are you making the music too important? Has your child’s musical talent become the repository of your hopes and dreams? If you find yourself becoming overly invested in the importance of your child’s musical accomplishments, you may inadvertently convey this attitude. As a result, your child might feel compelled to pursue music primarily to please you, or conversely, might rebel and quit in protest.
  • Are you expecting too much? Do you compare your child’s accomplishments to those of other young musicians, and feel frustrated that he or she is not as successful? While success in music requires dedication and diligent practice, some children lack the drive and motivation to follow through with this degree of effort. Each child progresses at his or her own pace, a product of talent, opportunity, drive and education, and comparison with other children only fosters resentment.
  • Are you using misguided motivational tactics? Do you find yourself regretting harsh words and arguments over practice? Do you cringe over shaming statements and criticism that you thought might motivate your child? While you may have been influenced by some teachers, books or the media to believe that harsh discipline is a necessary part of musical instruction, it is more important to appreciate its impact on your child. The best learning comes from excitement, inspiration and intrinsic desire, not drudgery or a “boot camp” approach. While short term gains may be achieved, the long term effects can damage your child’s love of music. More importantly, it can hurt your relationship with your child.
  • Do you set unrealistically high goals for your child? Are your expectations unrealistic? Do they create too much pressure and stress for your child and family? Just as intellectually gifted children may display asynchronous development, where social development lags behind intellectual abilities, musically gifted children also may not be developmentally prepared to tackle the rigorous demands required to advance their musical talent. Excessive pressure may create resistance or anxiety in a child who, frankly, needs more time to play with his or her friends.
  • Do you downplay your child’s musical interest? Do you have mixed feelings about your child's participation in musical activities? Does it worry you that music may be a distraction from more productive/useful/socially acceptable interests? Are you worried about music as a future career path? While it is reasonable to express valid concerns to your child as he or she matures, especially those involving peer influences or potential career paths, communicating ambivalence without explanation is unsettling and confusing to most children.
Admitting to any of the behaviors listed above is hard enough for any parent. Understanding how your child’s musical talents evoke unmet personal needs for fulfillment, a desire for approval from others, a drive for perfection, or a range of other emotions is even more difficult.  Yet, recognizing when your own needs and wishes differ from what is in the best interest of your child is critical to your child’s musical success, and to a healthy parent-child relationship. You can avoid “acting out” these emotions with your child by trying the following:

Get informed: 
Speak to a trusted music teacher or musician about what to expect from your child at different ages and stages of musical development. Do some reading that could provide some useful information. Books such as “Kindling the Spark” and “The Musician’s Way” are a good place to start.

Seek support: 
Reach out to family and friends for help with reactions and frustration. They know you best and will hopefully provide honest, caring feedback about what might blind your judgment. Seeking support from fellow parents of young musicians is also invaluable. Look for opportunities to join organizations such as band parent associations, for example, or form relationships with parents you meet at recitals. If your worries seem excessive, overwhelming or persistent, counseling with a mental health professional would be helpful.

Monitor your child’s behavior: 
Most importantly, remain attuned to your child’s adjustment. Pay attention to whether your child truly enjoys the music. Every young musician loses interest in practicing and gets frustrated at times. But if your child repeatedly complains, or cries and becomes angry about practice or lessons, it may mean he or she needs a change. As with most aspects of parenting, raising a musically talented child involves being aware of your own feelings, but ultimately remaining attuned to your child’s needs.

Parents: what has been most helpful with your musical child?

References:
Haroutounian, J. (2002). Kindling the Spark. New York: Oxford University Press.
Klickstein, G. (2009). The Musician’s Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance and Wellness. New York: Oxford University Press.




Monday, October 7, 2013

Parenting a musically talented child: Understanding your own reactions so you can encourage your child

Part One: Awareness

Most parents delight when their child performs in a recital or school concert. Yet they usually recognize that these musical efforts are an enriching activity and not a future career path. What happens, though, when parents realize that their child is musically gifted? How do they react to this, support their child’s growth as a musician, and make the best choices for their child and family?

Although parents may suspect that their child has talent, it usually takes outside confirmation to validate their perceptions. Often it comes from a music teacher or instructor, and is reinforced as the family witnesses how their child surpasses other children and grasps music in a manner well beyond the child’s years. When parents eventually realize that their child is musically gifted, they may be flooded with a range of feelings. How well they manage their feelings and reactions, and how these reactions are conveyed to their child can influence their child’s attitudes toward music. 

Developing an awareness of these emotions is a critical first step toward gaining a handle on them. Without understanding what they are feeling, parents may end up responding in counterproductive ways. The first step is recognizing the typical reactions most parents experience. These may include:

Excitement – Parents are often thrilled when they realize that their child is musically talented. They may take pride in their child’s abilities, and perhaps even feel in awe of his or her talents. If the child is their biological offspring, reactions may range from immodest pride (“I guess he’s got my musical skills”) to bewilderment (“how did I end up with such a talented child?”). Parents who are also musicians may feel a special bond with their child, as they can fully appreciate the child’s experience.  

Uncertainty – Along with excitement, parents often feel uncertainty. Many wonder how to best support their child’s abilities. And if they are not musicians themselves, entering an unfamiliar world of new terminology and expectations can be particularly daunting. They may question whether they can find the best resources for training, how to assess their child’s teacher or music class, and if they will be able to afford the costs of lessons, ensembles, camps and other opportunities. They may wonder what role they should play in their child’s daily routine and how much to push their child. Should they be a taskmaster and insist on regular practice, or allow their child to develop at his or her own pace? Have they done enough to foster their child’s musical growth and development? Even if they follow advice from teachers and other musicians, nagging doubts may remain.

Fears - After the initial excitement fades, many parents worry about what lies ahead. Music study takes tremendous discipline and dedication, and the commitment often eliminates time for other extra-curricular or social opportunities. Parents may feel conflict over limiting their child's extra-curricular choices to make time for dedicated practice. Some parents also worry that their child will be ostracized because of appearing different, and will be unpopular, especially if he or she performs traditional classical music or musical theatre. If their child performs jazz, rock or alternative forms of music, parents may worry about negative peer influences their child may eventually encounter. Long-range concerns include college planning, realistic career choices and whether a music career can sustain a viable income.

Emotional turmoil – Parents also weather the emotional ups and downs of their child’s successes and failures. Pride and excitement following a solid performance, anxiety prior to an audition, or frustration when their child lags behind with practicing all come with the territory. Parents may be surprised to discover their own competitive feelings toward children who surpass their child at auditions, or feel guilt due to ambivalence about their child’s involvement with music. Some may resent the cost of lessons and instruments, and the time spent traveling to rehearsals or competitions. Many feel saddened and angry if their talented child fails to live up to his or her potential or gives up music completely.

Raising a musically talented child can be invigorating, frustrating, intense, infuriating, worrisome, joyful, and deeply fulfilling. Parents' increased awareness of their own feelings will improve their ability to support their child by reducing the tendency to respond in a counterproductive manner. (More about this in Part Two.) Once parents are aware of their reactions, thoughts and feelings, they can take steps to minimize any negative effects on themselves and their children.

Part two will focus on what parents can do to address their reactions. But the first step is awareness. Are there any reactions that you would like to share?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Supporting musically talented children: Challenging social and emotional roadblocks to success

Musically talented children often face an uphill battle when trying to maintain enthusiasm for their studies. What typically starts with excitement and focused effort can end in boredom, apathy and disappointment. Several authors (e.g., Haroutounian, 2002; Parncutt & McPherson, 2002) have offered ideas for enhancing musical training and motivating young musicians. Yet, parents often question how to support and sustain their child’s passion when interest starts to wane.

Along with offering training that enriches their musical education, it is just as important to anticipate, challenge and eliminate social and emotional barriers to success. While the technical challenges and demands of music performance are an ever present reality, children need help navigating the emotional pressure and uncertainty they may experience at different stages of their progress.

Offering emotional support to musically talented children is often as critical as the music instruction itself. 

Some of the emotional roadblocks parents and teachers may need to address to support gifted young musicians include the following:

1.  Boredom – Repetitive practice, studies that fail to spark interest, and distraction can sap the drive and passion out of any aspiring young musician. Attention span varies depending on the child’s age, as younger musicians may need more breaks and shorter practice time, and adolescents may need an environment free from competing distractions, such as electronics, phones and other interruptions. Capturing their interest and engaging their creative spark is essential. Adolescents need a sense of purpose and understanding of the methodology to their practice (i.e.,”why am I doing this?”), and may quickly lose interest if they dislike, misunderstand or dispute why they need to practice in a certain manner. Some rudimentary understanding of music theory may help to spark their intellectual curiosity and help them stay motivated.

2.  Perfectionism – While music performance ultimately requires perfecting one’s repertoire, some gifted young musicians become preoccupied with achieving unrealistic results and develop exceptionally high standards for themselves. They become frustrated and self-critical if they fail to achieve their goals, and may allow a real or perceived setback to undermine their confidence and overall sense of well-being.  While a goal-oriented approach and dedication to one’s craft is admirable, it can be a curse for a child who buckles under pressure to succeed beyond what is reasonable. Perfectionism is a characteristic that has been frequently associated with giftedness, and as Silverman (1999) has noted, it can be a catalyst toward excellence and not necessarily a sign of emotional disturbance. However, musically talented children who are unable to strive for excellence without unrealistically rigid and harsh expectations, and who cannot modify these standards with the support of parents and teachers may need counseling to learn to challenge these beliefs.

3.  Performance anxiety –  These fears can include worries about being judged, freezing under pressure, making mistakes in public, forgetting a part when performing from memory, or being the center of attention. While a problem that often plagues even accomplished musicians, Kemp & Mills (2002) pointed out that performance anxiety affects young musicians as well. A variety of cognitive, mindfulness and imagery tools can be helpful. Green (1986) offers an excellent resource for challenging thoughts and behaviors that contribute to these fears. If performance anxiety interferes significantly, counseling also may be beneficial.

4.  Disappointment – All musicians eventually face rejection. Helping children handle disappointment requires significant effort from parents, as these children may lack the developmental tools for understanding how “unfair” the world can be. Gifted children, in particular, have an acute sense of what is fair and just, and may become outraged or disillusioned if they feel someone has been mistreated. Adolescents may give up their musical goals completely if disappointed, choosing to abandon their dreams rather than suffer another rejection. They also must grapple with feelings of envy when others surpass them, and may respond with anger, bitterness, or despair. Adults need to help children put their feelings into perspective and learn that they cannot control some of the unpredictable variables associated with success. However, they can focus on their own progress, learn what they can change so that they improve, and develop a plan that will allow them to reach their goals.

5.  Social isolation – Although many musically gifted children are introverted (Kemp & Mills, 2002), they may still suffer from the negative effects of social isolation. Focusing for hours on practice is a solitary activity that also may preclude participation in other extra-curricular or social activities. Performing in a band, choir or ensemble is enriching, but practice can be a lonely pursuit. Children who are not musically trained often do not understand how much dedication and practice is required, and may tease or cajole the young musician to stop practicing. Gifted young musicians need to be reminded of their goal, find meaning in their practice, and build in breaks where they have contact with others to alleviate feelings of isolation. Frequent participation in music ensembles can provide much needed relief from isolation, providing shared purpose and goals, a sense of unity with others, and an opportunity to meet friends with similar interests.

5.  Anxiety about career paths – Many adolescent musicians realistically question whether music is a viable career path. They are aware of the job market and the highly competitive struggle to find meaningful work. Parents and teachers can help them identify whether their talent and passion may be sufficient to sustain the challenge of pursuing a performance career, or if they are temperamentally suited to pursue another goal, such as music education, music technology, or music administration. Rather than dismissing their dream of a music career, providing realistic information about costs, salaries, job prospects, and lifestyle factors is important in guiding them to the right decision.

Offering emotional support to musically talented children is often as critical as the music instruction itself. Many potential careers have been thwarted by disillusionment and anxiety, and might have been salvaged with some clear support and guidance. It is not an easy challenge for parents or teachers of theses remarkable students, but must be considered an essential component to their success.

* An expanded version of this article is published in the National Association of Gifted Children Arts Newsletter, Vol. 1, Issue 1, Fall, 2013.

References

Green, B. (1986). The Inner Game of Music. New York: Doubleday.
Haroutounian, J. (2002). Kindling the Spark. New York: Oxford University Press.
Kemp, A. & Mills, J. (2002). Musical potential. In Parncutt, R., & McPherson, G. (Eds.) The Science and  Psychology of Performance, (Pp. 3-16). New York: Oxford University Press. 
Parncutt, R., & McPherson, G. (Eds.) The Science and  Psychology of Performance. New York: Oxford University Press.
Silverman, L. (1999). Perfectionism: The crucible of giftedness. Advanced Development, 8, 47-61. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Gifted education "lite": Helping your child adapt

When a child is identified for gifted services, parents usually feel relief. “Finally, my child will get the education he needs.” “Now she’ll be challenged and energized by learning.” But what many parents soon realize is that the much anticipated gifted program has gaping holes, glaring inadequacies and an array of watered-down services. It starts to look more like “gifted lite” than a bona fide educational plan.

It’s not that most schools don’t attempt to meet gifted children’s needs. It’s just that budgetary constraints, lack of training, or philosophical differences frequently place limits on what is offered. Sometimes gifted children receive no more than one hour a week of a pull-out program. Sometimes, they get a few extra assignments. Sometimes they are enlisted to tutor other children. These inadequate attempts at gifted education fail to address the full-time needs of children who are gifted all day long, not just for a few hours of enriched instruction.

Until the public school system offers more than a lukewarm attempt at meeting the needs of its gifted children, parents are left to advocate for their children. Many spend years meeting with teachers, administrators, and school board members, achieving only incremental success. Other parents pursue private school, cyber school, or home schooling. These outside alternatives may provide more enriched and individualized programs for gifted children, but might not be locally available, financially feasible, or even appropriate for a given child or family. Public school education offers a wealth of benefits private schools cannot provide (such as a greater selection of classes and extra-curricular activities, as well as sociocultural diversity), and an exodus of students from the school district does nothing to improve a system that taxpayers fund. (See a recent blog post about this on gifted parenting support.)

So, how can you help your child when your school’s best option looks a lot like gifted education “lite?” How do you prepare your child for an imperfect and sometimes disappointing classroom experience? How can you help your child adapt?

1.  Advocacy

First, let your child know that you will continue to advocate for the services she needs. Help her understand what it means to be gifted and explain why she may feel impatient or bored with some of her classes. Let her know that all of the children in her class deserve an appropriate education, not just the gifted kids.  With only one teacher, sometimes not everyone gets what they need. Let her know that you will continue to work with the school to see if they can offer more interesting material for her, if possible. Until then, she will have to adapt to the situation.

2.  Practice Assertive Skills  

Help your child learn to tactfully and appropriately assert himself. Teach him how to ask for more challenging school work in a manner that is most likely to work. Teachers respond best to children who are assertive, but not pushy, clingy or demanding. You could role play various situations with your child to help him learn what to say. Teach him to notice cues, so he can avoid interrupting the teacher at inconvenient times. Help him identify what he might want to say. For example, he may want to study a topic in greater depth, write a creative story about an area of interest, or tackle more challenging math problems. When he is detailed and specific, it saves the teacher time and effort, and increases the likelihood that he will receive material tailored to his interests.

3.  Banish Boredom

Teach your child creative ideas for enriching her learning experience. If she complains about feeling bored in class (and you have exhausted your options for obtaining enriched/accelerated alternatives), help her develop strategies for entertaining herself. For example, she could (silently) ask herself more in depth questions about the subject matter, invent a rhyme for what she is learning, or compose a musical tune to link together material she is reading. Helping your child learn how to manage feelings of boredom in class is a skill that will be a benefit to her in a variety of situations.

4.  Model Tolerance

Contain your anger as much as possible. You may certainly want to validate your child’s feelings and empathize with how bored he might feel. However, it will fuel your child’s frustration if you complain about the program’s inadequacies. Your reaction can serve as a model for how to be persistent with advocacy, but also respectful toward the individuals involved, and strategic in identifying what battles to pick. You can be a role model of patience, tolerance, and acceptance in the face of disappointment.


Many gifted children recognize that some classes, programs, and years in school are more engaging and challenging than others. They benefit from an understanding that this ebb and flow will continue throughout their time in school. Until public education is able to consistently support the needs of gifted children and adolescents, parents can help their children develop the skills, creativity and patience to learn as much as possible in an imperfect situation. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

When children realize they are gifted

Maybe it happens when they realize that they can multiply and their classmates cannot even add. Maybe it’s when they figure out there’s no Santa or Tooth Fairy, long before their friends know. Maybe it’s when the same old games their friends are playing just seem silly and boring.

AHA!!!
At some point, gifted children recognize that they are different from their peers. No one has to tell them. They realize it on their own. Often there is a defining moment when it first registers that they “get it” in ways others will never grasp. Frequently this realization is accompanied by pride and excitement, but sometimes by confusion or even guilt. “Hey, I thought my friends were just like me. Why don’t they see things the same way? What does it mean if I figure things out so quickly? Will it mean I’ll always be different?

Young children don’t understand what “gifted” means. But they do notice the fuss parents and teachers make about their abilities. When too much praise is offered, they may become confused. “I don’t get any reward for cleaning up my toys, but they make a big deal about something that comes so easily to me.” “Why is it so important that I can solve math problems the other kids can’t do? Does this make me better than them?”

Due to a lack of maturity, young children also may become bossy and impatient with peers who fail to perform at their ability level. Gifted children can start to believe that their intelligence is critical to their self-concept, and that performing poorly will disappoint those who love them. They may believe that their abilities are all that matter about them.

Most gifted children will not articulate their “aha” moment. Gifted adults sometimes recall their first awareness of being gifted. But young children have neither the words, nor the maturity to fully put it in perspective. Parents should be alert to signs that their child is comparing his or her abilities to those of others. Comments or questions regarding differences in skills, devaluing peers for being too “slow,” expressions of impatience and boredom, excessive boasting about accomplishments, and complaints about feeling misunderstood because of precocious interests all warrant discussion.

Parents need to help their gifted children understand what it means to be gifted, and that their abilities make them no more “special” than their friends. Rather than a confusing, ambivalent experience, a child's awareness of being gifted should be a positive awakening, and a threshold to endless possibilities. Parents are in an ideal position to provide the framework and guidance to help their child understand it. 

What were the defining moments when you realized you were gifted? 



Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Top blogs about gifted children, gifted education, and parenting

There are so many great blogs about gifted children, adolescents and adults, each of which provide a somewhat different perspective.

These blogs are written by teachers, parents, therapists, and researchers. They describe parenting dilemmas, personal triumphs and struggles, and research-based strategies that work. While there are also many wonderful websites, books, and blogsites specifically geared toward gifted education strategies, the blogs listed below were selected because of their focus on the social and emotional aspects of giftedness, parenting dilemmas, or advocacy.
















Watch out for Gifted People

We Are Gifted 2

If I have inadvertently overlooked a blog that you would like to suggest for the list, please let me know! (Some blogs may have been excluded, though, if they have not been updated within the past year, list only a few  posts, are affiliated with much larger organizations, or whose sole purpose is to sell a product.) Again, let me know your thoughts or recommendations in the comments section below.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sending your gifted child to college: Providing support when fears arise

As families pack up their new college students for the journey ahead, emotions can range from exhilaration and relief to anxiety and sorrow. But coupled with the all too common worries about making new friends, dating, academics and fighting with roommates, gifted college freshman can harbor some particular questions and fears.

Many gifted teens are academically and emotionally unprepared for college.

Even those gifted teens who achieved high grades or received scholastic awards may have coasted through school feeling bored and unfulfilled. Many never had the opportunity to master truly challenging academics, face failure, or exert much effort despite achieving good grades. The end result can be underlying self-doubt, a poor work ethic, and/or an overinflated sense of their talents.

As Elaine Tuttle Hansen, executive director of Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, stated several months ago in her column on college-bound students, “it's time to acknowledge that even top students may have college-readiness problems.” 

Inadequate academic preparation may be the most obvious challenge for some, and may come as a rude awakening to gifted adolescents who exerted little effort in high school. Despite efforts to find the right fit, college can present a range of challenges. Late night distress calls home, however, are often more reflective of the emotional rather than academic challenges these teens face as they start college. The questions gifted students may have include the following:

Will I fit in?

Gifted teens may have gotten used to being viewed as different, outliers, or non-conformists, yet eventually settled into a familiar niche by the end of high school, even if they longed for something new. Entering a completely different social environment, though, may reawaken anxiety about peer acceptance, memories of earlier incidents of bullying, or insecurity about their interpersonal skills. They may worry about rejection, and question whether they should be true to themselves or suppress their natural curiosity or quirky interests.

Parents can remind them that they have new opportunities to meet different friends, that anxiety is common for most incoming freshman, and that they could look for clubs, groups and other activities where they can find like-minded peers. Point out that they eventually found their place in high school, and this will happen in college. If they continue to struggle, appear depressed, or show signs of excessive anxiety, they should be encouraged to seek out support from the college counseling center.

Will I be noticed?

The small fish, big pond world of most college campuses is a harsh reality for many accomplished students, especially when praise and recognition have bolstered underlying insecurity. Even small colleges can seem overwhelming when no one knows an individual’s abilities. While it may be a welcome relief to share classes with so many equally talented students, it can be a humbling reminder to gifted children that they are not so special after all.

Parents can point out that they will find their niche eventually, that it takes time to build connections, and that they are “special” regardless of how much they shine. Their “job” is to learn, grow and gain a good education. They do not have to be the best; they need to work hard, develop new skills, and find their path.

Will I succeed?

Praised for their talents and permitted to languish in “easy” classes, many gifted adolescents have no idea about what it takes to achieve success. College may provide the first awareness that talent is not enough; drive, hard work, organizational skills, and vision are necessary to get ahead. This sobering reality may force them to master new skills that are unfamiliar to them. To belabor a metaphor, the “small fish” may also feel like a fish out of water. Conversely, some gifted students have been perfectionists from the start, and place even more pressure on themselves once they reach college.

Remind them that college is not just geared toward academic learning, but toward the development of life lessons and skills toward a future career. They are learning what some of their peers recognized years ago; you have to work hard to achieve what you want. They also may have to ask for help, develop study skills, and reach out for guidance in difficult academic subjects. Perfectionistic students need to challenge their self-imposed standards and recognize when their expectations are too extreme.

Who am I without my talents?

Some gifted adolescents have become so identified with their talents and accomplishments that they question what might become of them without continued success. Their identity has been interwoven with recognition, awards and perfect test scores, and they may worry that any digression from this would betray loved ones and teachers who have championed their strengths. Even more, they may fear losing a sense of themselves if they fail to perform at a high level. While some existential anxiety is common for most college students, gifted students who overidentify with their achievements might limit class selection or career goals that present any risk, or feel guilt and despair if performance does not meet expectations.

Gifted adolescents need to be reminded that they are loved and appreciated for much more than their talents and abilities. Point out that they need to take risks to try new skills, take on new challenges, and investigate different forms of learning while in college. Remind them that what is most important is their intrinsic strength of character unrelated to their intellect. If they continue to experience feelings of depression, anxiety, or obsessive worrying about performance, counseling should be considered.

On a positive note...

Despite these fears, most gifted adolescents feel relieved and even thrilled to be in college. They are finally in an environment that values higher level thinking, intellectual engagement, and achievement. They no longer have to “hide” their interests and abilities due to fear of being criticized. They are surrounded by like-minded peers who also want to learn.

Best wishes for your child's safe, joyful and enlightening journey.


Friday, August 9, 2013

A life lesson for gifted children: failure

Let your gifted child fail.

What?


Many parents of gifted children, hardened from years of advocacy, might bristle at the idea of allowing their child to fail. They have encouraged their children to fulfill their talents, to strive for their best, to take on new challenges. Passively accepting a failing grade or poor performance may seem alien.

But it’s often the best life lesson a child can receive. And it’s better if it comes early.

Why is it so important?


Gifted children are used to doing well, accomplishing what they want, rising to the top. Although some may struggle with learning disabilities or deficits in a few areas, most grasp learning with ease. Many coast along and rarely push themselves as a result. We do them a disservice if they rarely face a challenge, if they never struggle, if they never fail. We rob them of the opportunity to learn resilience.

What is resilience?


Simply put, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines resilience as "an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change." The American Psychological Association expands this definition to include both a process and a learned behavior. According to the APA, “Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity…. Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.”

When learning comes easily, tests are a breeze, and there is little challenge, children don’t get to develop resiliency skills.  Often this occurs when the curriculum is too slow or basic. The obvious solution is to ensure that gifted children receive an education that is stimulating and challenging. Other times, though, gifted children may avoid academically demanding situations because of their fear of failing. Not only do they deprive themselves of finally experiencing a true academic or creative challenge, they never get to flex their “resiliency muscles.

Some reasons gifted children avoid taking risks include:
  • Perfectionism – Not all gifted children are perfectionists, but those who are feel compelled to produce a stellar performance or piece of work, even when others do not expect this. Perfectionists often avoid challenges when the outcome is uncertain or where they might perform poorly.
  • Heightened sensitivities – Highly sensitive and emotionally intense, many gifted individuals can overreact to even mild criticism. Comments intended to enhance growth may be perceived as overly harsh and taken as a global stamp of disapproval. Their sensitivity also may result in an avoidance of risk-taking.
  • Defining self by ability – Some gifted children define themselves by their talents and abilities, and dread the possibility of failure. When consistently praised and recognized because of their talents, they can become overidentified with them, and believe that it is essential to maintain their standing as the “best” at what they do.  If they fail, they may feel devastated, as their sense of identity can feel threatened.
  • Previous failures in social situations – Sometimes introversion, asynchronous development, or having interests that differ from those of their peers may have contributed to uncomfortable social interactions that felt like failures. Some gifted children may retreat into their intellectual or artistic pursuits, and fear the thought of losing this refuge if they were to fail.

The experience of failure itself is not helpful. What matters is what the child learns from it. 


Supportive encouragement to learn from the particular situation, challenge misconceptions about what occurred, and quickly move on can help children accept disappointment and develop resiliency. Resources for building resiliency in children are available in print and on the web, such as through the APA help center. Yet gifted children may have somewhat different needs.

What can you do to help your gifted child develop resiliency?


1.  Encourage your child to take academic risks. Achievements are more satisfying when they initially seemed out of reach. Don't let your child settle for shortcuts, or lavish praise over accomplishments that come too easily. Urge schools to provide appropriate gifted education that truly challenges your child.

2.  Distinguish between process and outcome – Offer an appreciation of how learning is a process involving uncertainty, excitement, confusion, and a range of unsolved mysteries. Your child’s job is to take on challenges he or she has not already mastered. Let your child know that you care as much about how he or she approaches learning as what is produced.

3.  Teach coping strategies – Help your child learn how to accept disappointment and loss without either blaming others or engaging in harsh self-criticism. Teach how to put adversity into perspective. Help your child learn to comfort, soothe, distract, seek support, and appropriately discharge feelings. (Note: Sometimes these skills may warrant support from a therapist.)

4.  Emphasize values – Promote the importance of ethics and integrity, cooperation and collaborative work, and taking responsibility for one’s role in the classroom.  Let your child know that actions and behaviors speak more about character than accomplishments, and that how one behaves is more important than always being the best. 

While most children find school to be reasonably demanding, gifted children frequently view academics as easy and even boring. Without a challenge, they may develop a distorted sense of their own abilities, a skewed perception of others' strengths, and a fear of taking risks when eventually faced with real challenges. Encouraging academic risk-taking at an early age, before fears and avoidance behaviors become entrenched, should help build confidence in their ability to master adversity and future challenges.