Empowering Tidbit # 38-Calming an Anxious, Gifted Child

February 20, 2024

Highly gifted students often possess exceptional cognitive abilities that set them apart in the classroom. Their aptitude for learning and problem-solving can be a source of pride for both educators and parents. However, it’s essential to recognize that even the most gifted students are not immune to the challenges that life, and the school environment, can present. High levels of anxiety and giftedness go together in our classrooms, just as they can affect any other student, and in some cases, even more so. The pressure to perform, fear of making mistakes, or the struggle to meet their own, often high, standards can lead to overwhelming anxiety. When anxiety takes hold, it can significantly interfere with the learning process. In this context, we will explore strategies for educators to support highly gifted students who experience anxiety-related challenges, allowing them to harness their extraordinary talents while managing their emotional well-being.

Calming an anxious child requires patience, empathy, and effective strategies to help them feel safe and supported; to reduce anxiety in the classroom. Here are some steps to help calm an anxious child:

1. **Stay Calm**: Children often look to adults for cues on how to react to a situation. Maintaining a calm and composed demeanor is essential.

2. **Provide Reassurance**: Offer verbal reassurance by telling the child that you are there for them, and everything will be okay. Use soothing and comforting words.

3. **Listen Actively**: Encourage the child to express their feelings and concerns. Actively listen without judgment and validate their emotions. Saying something like, “I understand that you’re feeling scared” can be reassuring.

4. **Physical Comfort**: Sometimes, a gentle hug, holding their hand, or offering physical comfort can be reassuring. However, be sensitive to the child’s preferences, as some may not want physical contact when anxious.

5. **Deep Breathing**: Teach the child deep breathing techniques. Have them take slow, deep breaths to help calm their nervous system. You can do this together to demonstrate.

6. **Offer Distractions**: Engage the child in an activity or conversation that they enjoy. This can help redirect their focus away from the source of anxiety.

7. **Create a Safe Space**: If possible, guide the child to a quiet, safe space where they can relax and regain composure. Offer them their favorite blanket or stuffed animal for comfort.

8. **Use Positive Imagery**: Encourage the child to imagine a safe, happy place or use positive imagery to help them feel more at ease.

9. **Set Realistic Expectations**: Make sure that your expectations for the child are realistic and age-appropriate. Avoid putting unnecessary pressure on them.

10. **Limit Exposure**: If the anxiety is related to a specific trigger, limit exposure to that trigger when possible. For instance, if a certain type of media is causing anxiety, reduce or eliminate exposure.

11. **Routine and Predictability**: Children often find comfort in routines and predictability. Establish a consistent schedule and stick to it as much as possible.

12. **Encourage Problem Solving**: For older children, encourage them to think of solutions to the source of their anxiety. Help them brainstorm ideas and evaluate possible solutions.

13. **Seek Professional Help**: If a child’s anxiety is persistent, severe, or interfering with their daily life, consider seeking professional help from a child psychologist or therapist.

Remember that every child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Be patient and flexible in your approach to calming an anxious child. Your support and understanding can go a long way in helping them manage their anxiety.

In conclusion, it’s vital to recognize that highly gifted students are a unique and diverse group, and their educational and emotional needs deserve our attention and support. As educators and parents, our responsibility extends beyond nurturing their intellectual potential to ensuring their emotional well-being. By acknowledging and addressing anxiety-related challenges, we can help these gifted students thrive in their educational journey.

At Scholars Academy for the Gifted, we are committed to working closely with families to offer unwavering support and deep understanding to children who grapple with anxiety. Our mission is not only to nurture their extraordinary talents but also to foster their emotional well-being, ensuring that they thrive both academically and personally. Together, let’s create a nurturing environment where these remarkable children can flourish while equipping them with the essential skills to manage anxiety effectively. Join us in this collective effort to help these gifted young minds reach their full potential and lead fulfilling lives. Set up a free consultation with the director or reach out via email @ drlowder@scholarsacademy4thegifted.org.

Dr. Laura Lowder

Director & Curriculum Coordinator

K-12 AIG, K-12 Reading Specialist, Dyslexia Structured Reading Therapist (in progress)

National Board Teaching Licensure

Scholars Academy for the Gifted & Artistically Elite

Professor of Education, Pfeiffer University

Mom of 5 highly-gifted, twice-exceptional children, 4 who are thriving at SA4theGifted & 1 who is thriving at UNC-Chapel Hill