Being a parent is one of the greatest joys in life, but it certainly comes with its challenges. Just ask mom and digital influencer Chriselle Lim of The Chriselle Factor who told MyDomaine that having a baby is "possibly the hardest and most exhaustive thing" she’s ever experienced while also the most rewarding. Add a gifted child into this equation, and it's a whole other ball game, one made even harder since there is no official definition of what it means to be gifted. Nearly every state has its own for academic purposes.
According to the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), "Gifted individuals are those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude (defined as an exceptional ability to reason and learn) or competence (documented performance or achievement in top 10% or rarer) in one or more domains. Domains include any structured area of activity with its own symbol system (e.g., mathematics, music, language) and/or set of sensorimotor skills (e.g., painting, dance, sports).”
In 2015, NAGC estimated that were approximately 3 million "academically gifted" children in the U.S. in grades K-12. If your child is one of them, you might need to use a different parenting playbook. Read on to see the top six things all parents raising gifted children should know.
Explain grades aren't everything
Intellectually gifted children are likely already pressuring themselves to excel, so don't add to that stress. Instead, focus on communicating why the learning process is more important than just achieving a high score. “Rather than focus upon the grade, prompt your child’s response with: Tell me about what you learned doing this? Draw a star by something you did well or liked doing,” suggests Bertie Kingore, PhD, an international education consultant.
Consider homeschooling or special programs
Although it can be costly, homeschooling or specialized tutors may be a great way to engage your child (the last thing you want is for them to become bored because they're lacking challenges). "It is especially helpful if there is a group of parents who can work together pooling talents, skills and learning and social opportunities," says Trevor Tebbs, PhD, a consultant who works with families raising gifted children. Which brings us to…
Socialize with gifted families
If sharing tutors with other "gifted" families isn't an option, it's still crucial for your child to interact with like-minded children. Spending time with peers communicating on a similar level will increase your child's feeling of belonging. Tebbs explains, “This is not always easy or comfortable for the ‘introverted’ individual but even for the introvert there are benefits in being able to ‘extravert’ in the context of a shared interest!”
Communicate that different isn't bad
“Gifted children can feel disconnected from age peers who interpret so differently,” Kingore says. It's important to stress that there is beauty in being different—allow your child to find it in himself or herself and others. Be open, honest, and willing to listen.
Treat your child as an equal
You don't need to treat your 7-year-old like an adult, but you should consult your child in decisions directly affecting them, says Nancy Delano Moore, the mother of a gifted child. Are you thinking of trying a new school? A new private French tutor? See if this is exciting news to your child and talk it through calmly.
Focus on their interests—not yours
It's easy to become wrapped up in the excitement that you forget your child has their own passions. "Our goals may not be their goals," Kingore asserts. It's crucial to keep checking in with your child to see which areas they'd like to pursue.
Redefining Giftedness for A New Century: Shifting the Paradigm. Position Statement. National Association for Gifted Children. March 2010.
2014-2015 State of the States in Gifted Education. Policy and Practice Data. National Association for Gifted Children. November 2015.