Tidbit # 1: Permission to Be

August 17, 2021

The challenges of living, as an adult, with one’s own giftedness and raising a child who is gifted, are many. Of course, there is the predictable set of expectations that one has for one’s child, which can be amplified by the knowledge that the child is “gifted” and the more so as a projection of one’s own giftedness. And we will certainly get into that territory in another blog posting, but of interest today is the inevitable disconnect between a child’s particular type of giftedness and the areas — and sometimes, they are many! — in which the child struggles and about which the child is very often quite sensitive. Giftedness, which can be formally and informally recognized, tested for, and variously manifested in day-to-day goings-on, is somehow difficult to pin down, especially since it tends to bring with it such a wealth of other challenges. And these challenges can look one way in a younger child and morph into something quite different with the onset of puberty. Hypersensitivity plus changing hormones and dietary requirements can bring about their own special mix of heightened feelings and questionable social tendencies, all of which can leave any parent wondering how to navigate a big chunk of years! In a funny sort of way, though, the infamous teen years can be the great equalizer; meaning, despite whatever amazing intellectual and/or artistic feats, kids during these years all tend to really need support — peer and adult — question who they are, who they want to be, and who they don’t want to be, seek out a niche, push boundaries, and, of course, show ever more glimmers of a balanced young adult. 

If your student isn’t yet at or just beginning this stage, at least, in fits and starts, let’s hope this feels reassuring. Meanwhile, how to handle the imbalances that tend to go hand-in-hand with giftedness? Why is my child a math whiz but somehow missing age-appropriate social cues? Why is my child so expressive and skilled as an artist but so inarticulate about moods, insecurities and personal needs? To state the obvious, the brain is complicated and mysterious, and it certainly doesn’t follow a set developmental path any more than does physical growth and development, the onset of speech, crawling, and a number of other so-called milestones. And to state the obvious again, bring patience and an abundance of grace, a wide-eyed desire to learn your child, and wide arms to embrace the developing human who can’t quite keep up with him/herself, let alone your expectations! This is hard, alas. Of course, there can be warning signs that professional support might be needed, and these should not be ignored. But there seems always to be more room for us parents to slow down, label less, and strive for more and/or better connections — connections with us, with peers, with educators, with nature, with music and movement, with the quiet part of our child’s Self. 

Your child is, as well you know, unique. Your child can therefore not be made to fit into the many partial boxes everyone, including loving parents, can’t seem to help but try to fit him/her into. And so, don’t try; remember to meet your child where s/he is, as you have doubtless struggled to meet yourself. I’d like to think the number that is my age doesn’t represent me, especially since it no longer begins with a 2 or a 3; why be so attached to the “shoulds” of childhood stages and ages when we already know our children are exceptions? Complete immersion in one area tends to lead to maturation, refinement, advancement in that area. This is the big draw of practicing well and of being focused. Needless to say, such regular practice and such singular focus necessarily come at the expense of practicing other things, split focus — grazing, as it were. This latter concept is often a huge challenge for highly gifted children — hyper focus, depth beyond their years has a price. It’s not a forever price, but it can knock some of the expected sequencing out of whack and most definitely ostracize a person from what is considered the norm. 

Still, those teen years are coming, and that norm becomes very broad, very stretchy, and fantastically inclusive, and that forever price loses its infinitude. And so, we observe; we nudge; we surround our wonderful child with people and experiences that will encourage moments of ‘grazing’ because sooner or later, those frames of reference will be crucial to that developing human and his/her search for balance and Self and belonging, and our extra judgement is most definitely the very last thing anyone needs. Our younger self might even thank us too. 

Julianna Tauschinger-Dempsey, Gifted Mother of Three Wildly Gifted Children, Educator @ Scholars Academy for the Gifted & Artistically Elite & Empowerer of Gifted Youth & Their Parents

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