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National Parenting Gifted Children Week - Raising a Gifted Child

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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:

NAGC's parenting page

Hoagies' Gifted Education parenting page

Having been down this road, what are YOUR thoughts on parenting your gifted child(ren)?

9 Comments

I'm sitting here with a friend who's also the parent of two gifted kids (lucky us, huh?) and we're nodding and going, "Yep, yep. Been there," as we read.

Thanks. We're off to the bookstore now. Hopefully our four gifted kids won't figure out how to burn the house down while we're gone...

Why is this parenting week during the middle of the summer---so no one will notice it?

The Hoagies' pointer is valuable---I've often found useful resources there. I've never found anything useful on the NAGC pages. Is there something there worth looking at?

I'm definitely going to look into this book. Maybe I'll talk our library system into purchasing it to get a really good feel for it first. My kids are pretty much through the system -- youngest starts high school this fall -- but, I'm always open to new resources.

As for parenting gifted children, I found the elementary years a lot easier than the middle school and high school years. At that point,it seemed that where we lived that folks put too much emphasis on the normal traditional schooling route. As an article I wrote for a regional parenting magzine attests to, parenting a gifted child is waaaaay different from parenting a bright/smart child, especially when you don't have the support/insight of an awesome G/T resource teacher like yourself at one of your schools.

Thank you for making this recommendation, Tamara. I've found exactly the same reaction in my work with gifted families. Parents are so beaten down by the other playground parents who get competitive or the school staff that tell them they have a "happy problem" that they become shell-shocked. The best part of my job is telling them "It's okay. You're not alone."

This is why Mensa's Gifted Children's Program hosts the Bright Kids e-list. Bright Kids is a safe place to brag a little about your kids accomplishments and to get feedback on school problems, social problems and family problems. Our 600 current members are a mix of public, private and homeschoolers with kids from the moderately gifted to graduated-from-MIT-with-a-Master's-at-15. We are teachers, therapists, and psychologists (as well as the usual doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs) but mostly we are parents who have been there and done that.

Bright Kids is open to the public. You can try us out at http://tinyurl.com/brightkids

I love your articles. I have a 9yo son who is gifted and 6yo who hasn't been "identified" to date. I remain overwhelmed with the information out there. I get tired of feeling I need to battle for my child and I am seeking genuine guidance and reassurance that we are doing the best for them. Frequently I feel we get lip service on this because teachers are afraid to speak freely or they have "greater issues". I have expierenced "your child is gifted what is the concern" from both parents of non gifted and gifted parents.I have met some parents of gifted who are overwhelmed in the energy reqirement needed to raise a gifted child and expect others to do it all for them. I have heard "They will be fine no matter what they receive." from all different individuals. Local support system is non exsistant so I look to the internet and books (can be overwhelming)and very politcal at times. I would love to develop a parenting network locally based on providing support and information. Networking is difficult because information is protected by law. I fear middle school years. There is not enough out there on gifted education during that time frame or the on going needs once identified. Thank you for your time, dedication, positive support and accessiblity through the internet. I will keep reading.

as a parent of an 11 yr old moderately gifted 2e child, I don't get too much of the your so lucky type of comments. from school staff I do get things like no your dysgraphic son can't get scribe services because he's not failing, even though he did fail a year's worth of the written part of reading assessments (balanced by stellar multiple choice nudging him into 'above grade level', of course) never mind that he's the one crawling around on the floor to avoid writing or reading ahead in the book because he's bored It does knock you down a bit when you see such smarts but are not sure your child will have the persistence to push through the disabilities and graduate high school much less go to college. in hindsight I did not push for enough gt services for him. but it took my second child, now 7, moderately gifted but not 2e, to realize how poor gt services are in our supposedly top ranked school. we do have a marvelous gt teacher who is the only staff member i've met who 'gets' my 11 yr old...I realized just in time for him to finish there. I will work with her to get better services for the gt kids...maybe benefit my younger child.

To anon, been there done that with my oldest who wasn't diagnosed until his freshman year of high school! Key was an evaluation by a private psychologist who thoroughly understands gifted kids with learning disabilities. Still, advocated hard to help older son through high school successfully (He successfully took enough honors and g/t classes to receive a merit scholars certificate with his diploma.) I also made sure that the same nonsense didn't happen with his younger brother and got him the accommodations he needed in his g/t classes for middle school. So hang in there lady!
As for "competitive playground parents" mentioned by Princess Mom -- yep had more than my share of those too. And, have had some really shocking comments flung my way by these sort of folks. While I've learned to roll with the punches and ignore them for the most part, I will be looking up your Bright Kids link, just because it sounds like a great place for a mom like me who, some days, still feels a little battered around the edges!

I have a 5 year old daughter who I suspect is "gifted". Her preschool teacher said last June that she wouldn't be surprised if she was tested into the first grade instead of kindergarden for the fall. She can read and write. I took her to a kindergarten screening for the school district and was by her screening teacher that the district does not skip students and that differentiation would not begin until she is in middle school. There is no gifted program in my school district. Can someone please tell me how I should advocate for my child? I am very worried about her not being in the right setting to learn.

Tamara - I always enjoy your posts. Thanks for the book recommendation. At the moment, all my concerns are about what might happen, since DS5 starts kindergarten in the fall. We were lucky enough to have him ID'd as gifted before school, so we could make some plans with the principal. We are hoping the planned differentiation will work out.

Note to Esmerelda: Please don't think that the kindergarten screener has all the info about acceleration at your school. I was told the same thing at our screening. Since I ignored that advice and made some other contacts, the principal agreed to handpick a kindergarten teacher for DS5 who will differentiate in the areas he is advanced. (In our situation, DS5 will probably do better going to kindergarten, where there is more play, and then skipping first next year.) Check to see if there is a gifted coordinator (GC) (at any grade level - ours normally works with 3rd grade up) and explain your situation and that you are just trying to find out what's best for your child. The GC might be able to act as a liaison between you and the principal, and together you will hopefully be able to make a plan that's best for your child. Also, check your district's website to see if they have any policies online - many schools do. Good luck!

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