Gifted children sometimes need to find their "work-life" balance as well. They crave intellectual challenge and stimulation, but too much activity can result in burn-out. How can parents recognize that fine line between engagement and too much pressure?
Finding Work-Play Balance
1. Remain attuned to your child
Your child will let you know. He might not voice specific complaints, but his behavior speaks for itself. Symptoms can include anxiety, irritability, lethargy, depression, mood swings or sadness, an increase in arguments with you or his siblings, and a lowered frustration tolerance. Other signs are sleep disturbance (sleeping more, waking more often, or frequent nightmares), loss of appetite, or physical complaints, such as stomachaches or headaches. These symptoms may not necessarily stem from a work-play imbalance, but sometimes that can be part of the problem.
2. Read between the lines
If your child is able to express her concerns, listen to her. Gifted children, in particular, are highly sensitive and aware of their feelings. If she tells you she feels overwhelmed, or claims a particular class is too stressful, believe her. Her distress may be revealed through obsessive worrying, perfectionism, late-night melt-downs before an exam, or chronic procrastination. She also may express her distress indirectly. She might be annoyed by her teacher's voice, or the color of the classroom, or the lay-out of the robotics studio, or some other seemingly obscure complaint. It may be too difficult for her to admit to you (or herself) that she feels overwhelmed and overworked. Listen and pay attention to what she really might be saying.
3. Find out what is causing the problem
If a class or extra-curricular activity is too demanding, find out why. Understanding what is upsetting your child shows that you care and are open to learning more. It demonstrates your interest in assessing the situation and taking action, if necessary. Learning more about the problem, however, does not mean you must intervene, pull your child out of a class, or stop an activity altogether. Additional options include limiting his involvement, reducing expectations, speaking with his teacher, or helping him improve his social skills, time management or coping strategies. If he continues to struggle, and you are unable to help, it may be beneficial to consult with a licensed mental health professional.
4. Understand your child's drive
For many gifted children (and adults), work and play are inescapably intertwined. Play is the best learning tool for young children, and researchers have recommended making provisions for even more play time during the school day. Gifted kids use both play and challenging academic opportunities to delve into a task or project, and find intrinsic joy through learning, curiosity, creative expression, and accomplishing a meaningful goal. When schools eliminate the option for challenging learning, the result is lukewarm, rote educational instruction. This creates its own form of stress and misery for gifted children, contributing to boredom, apathy, and disillusionment. As a parent, it may fall on you to provide opportunities for free time, play, and creative expression at home, and to advocate when necessary within your child's school.
5. Encourage what works
You know your child best. When she is engaged, excited, immersed in a task she loves, and shares her enthusiasm with you, it's a clear sign that she's on the right track. When she throws herself into learning, is eager to embrace a new challenge, and is confident, you know that she has found that work-play balance. Help your child remain on the path that fosters challenge, curiosity, engagement, and a willingness to risk failure without fear. These opportunities will support continued growth, help to prevent burn-out, and encourage an ongoing passion for learning.
This blog is part of Hoagie's Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on Balancing Boredom and Burn-out. To see more blogs, click on the following link: http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_balancing_boredom_burnout.htm