Timed in conjunction with the annual SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) conference, this week (July 19-25, 2009) is National Parenting Gifted Children Week, an awareness event sponsored by SENG and NAGC (the National Association for Gifted Children).
Parenting a gifted child is not the cakewalk others seem to assume it is. Just because your child is smart and (typically) does well in school, it seems others believe that therefore you've got it made as a parent. What trouble could there possibly be with such a worry-free kid?
The parents of my gifted students often approach me a little hesitantly for the first time when bringing up a parenting issue, question, or concern. They will usually qualify their inquiry with some sort of "Well, but..." statement: "Maybe I have nothing to worry about, but..." or "I know there are other kids who are probably in much greater need than my child, but..." or "Perhaps I should just be happy she does so well, but..."
See, that "Well, but..." in their inquiries is a tiny window into the deep concerns they feel they must hide from other parents, their child's teacher, their closest friends, and sometimes even their spouse. From the outside everything looks so great, and certainly there must be other children out there with far greater problems than mismatched academic content, super-sensitivity, undiagnosed learning disabilities, teasing from age-peers, ulcers developed from worrying about the world's problems, questions a parent isn't sure how to answer (from a 7-year-old: "If Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny.... ...then does that mean Jesus, too?"), insomnia ("She won't go to sleep until midnight!"), friendship problems ("He just doesn't relate to kids his own age, so how is he ever going to find a friend?"), and so on and so on. The reality is that because of issues like these (and many others), parenting a gifted child -while still a joyous blessing, as with parenting any child- can also be chock full of qualms, uncertainties, and worries that few (outside of other parents of gifted kids) seem to "get."
When I respond to their "Well, but..." inquiries by telling the parents of my students that I'm well aware parenting a gifted child is not the cakewalk others seem to think it is, they consistently respond with visible relief... their shoulders relax, tears well up in their eyes, and in many cases those tears brim over and flow. They don't want to be seen as "pushy" and yet they KNOW their child's needs aren't being met or that their child has a problem that could become much bigger if left unchecked. I'm typically the only person they dare bring these "Well, but's" to because it's clear they fear bringing it up to anyone else. And many of them wait to get to know me for a few years before posing any such inquiries.
With this being National Parenting Gifted Children Week, I wanted to take this opportunity to send a grand kudos out to all you parents who take on the endless energy, intensity, questions, sensitivity, and possibility of your gifted children. You're not alone on this complicated, rewarding adventure! Additionally, I wanted to give you a head's up about a new book that is a great gateway to information which you might find helpful...
It is quickly becoming my new handbook of outstanding resources. Raising a Gifted Child: A Parenting Success Handbook is filled with page after page of almost every conceivable resource available to gifted children and their parents. Published by Prufrock Press, the author is Carol Fertig, who writes the Gifted Child Information Blog. There are three things in particular that I really appreciate about this book.
First, from cover to cover it provides a comprehensive overview of Gifted Education, all written from a point of view that aims to connect with parents. I think any parent of a gifted child who is looking for a thorough-yet-not-overwhelming introduction to the world of giftedness and gifted education could find it here. It's deeper and broader than "in a nutshell," but it's also not so deep and not so broad that it doesn't fit in the large nutshell that is its 233 pages. I think any parent of a newly-identified student would appreciate the broad survey and concise summary that provides a friendly introduction to the joys and challenges of parenting a gifted child. And I think any parent of a child who has been identified for awhile would appreciate the "next step" advice that is offered for most scenarios a parent of a gifted child can be confronted with.
Second (and admittedly because I share Carol's views), I love the realistic and down-to-earth points of view expressed throughout the book. Without beating around the bush and yet somehow with graceful subtlety, the author expresses some important messages for parents (and teachers) of gifted children. For example, she talks about having realistic expectations, about keeping in mind that there's more than one way to educate a child (with no one way being the "right" choice), advice on parental responsibilities when it comes to gifted children, and being willing to overlook some of the messiness and uncertainty of creativity - so as to allow one's highly creative child to actually explore and develop their creativity. (i.e. sometimes making a mess is important!)
Third, I have kept this book handy since reading it because of its endless supply of excellent suggested resources. I think I had a hundred ideas while reading it of something I could do with my students or a resource I could now recommend to a particular student or parent. Some of the suggested resources I had already been aware of (I do work in the field, after all), but a surprising number of them were new to me and have been/will be highly useful for my students and their parents. There truly is something for everyone among the hundreds of suggested resources (books, websites, competitions, advice for finding a mentor, online classes of all stripes, magazines, national organizations, educational options, and so much more). Raising a Gifted Child is a timely treasure trove!
Other great parenting resources which will gateway you to even more:
Having been down this road, what are YOUR thoughts on parenting your gifted child(ren)?