Tidbit # 2

August 28, 2021

How to start the year on the right foot? I feel safe in saying that pretty much everyone experiences some degree of anxiety about the start of the new school year, and as one approaches the end of high school, the real and imagined pressures mount. And because gifted kids tend to have heightened emotional and/or psychological sensitivities, the nice excitement of new challenges, new teachers and classmates, and new adventures — academic and/or artistic — can pale in the face of notions of perfection and its besties: fear of failure, an endless stream of ‘what-ifs’, and an idealism. This combination of big emotions can make transitioning to a new stage (grade level, class level, higher expectations, inside/structured versus outside/unstructured time) anathema. Of course, some children manifest their nerves and articulate their worries very clearly, but some do not. Rarely do these worries have any relationship to strict logic or fact or even, past patterns, which can frustrate the child as much as the parent who wants to help. 

Still, it’s not our job as loving and supportive parents to dispel these fears for our child. It is up to us to recognize them, to help our child recognize them, if s/he hasn’t yet, and to guide our child past them. A few helpful reminders: decisions and behaviors based on emotions are most often ill-advised. Encourage your child to acknowledge his/her feelings but not to act on those feelings. Instead, work with your child to make a plan of action based on his/her goals rather than the feelings. Make sure teachers and coaches are ready and willing to support the whole child and acknowledge your child’s feelings, while at the same time encouraging his/her pursuit of the goal. These goals can be big or small, but not unrealistic, which some children (and adults!) struggle with. Measurable goals that can be reached by following a plan and serve as ready reminders should those feelings do their best to rewrite the show go a long way in stabilizing a child’s beginning-of-the-year big emotions. 

Of course, not all people struggle with such feelings. Some of us can’t wait for school to resume, look forward with purpose to all that lies ahead and feel, on some level, relieved that the long summer is finally coming to an end — especially with the ongoing Covid-related restrictions. Still, talking through and writing down goals, whether academic, behavioral, social, or artistic, is a great way to keep the outlook positive, productive, and full of hope. And I cannot imagine who of us couldn’t use an infusion of extra hope! So, encourage your child (or sit down with him/her!) to make a list, draw a picture, use colors and shapes — attach a narrative, if need-be. This year is going to be great!

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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