Growing up isn’t easy for anyone. Growing up gifted tends to throw a couple extra hurdles in the path of those running toward the goal of adulthood. Many assume that being advanced intellectually provides kids with the necessary tools for easily overcoming obstacles in life, but in fact it can make it harder. Overexcitabilities, perfectionism, isolation, and that eternal limbo of neither fitting in or connecting with their age-mates, it makes childhood a rough emotional road for most of these children.
How do we as parents, librarians, teachers, and counselors help? The most ideal situation is to assist when they are young; this support early on gives them confidence in themselves and how to handle these particular sensitivities. There are four aspects to emotionally developing gifted children, according to Judith Wynn Halsted, and they are as follows:
- Establishing an identity
- Being alone
- Getting along with others
- Using Abilities (Halsted, 1988)
Let us break this up into four sections, and explore these traits this week:
1. Establishing an identity
Part of growing up is establishing an identity. Growing up gifted means establishing an identity accepting who they are, and part of who they are is a gifted person, with the pluses and minuses that come with that moniker. It is possible that a the hardest part of that choice of accepting themselves comes with the decision to hide their likes, their intellect, their fevered desire to explore and discuss intellectual pursuits. Being one’s true self comes with complications – they worry that they will not be liked, as any child is wont to do – but with heightened sensitivity to the rejection, these advanced children will hide away the very essence that makes them gifted in an attempt to fit in. It is good for kids to learn to adapt, but it is not good for them to leave who they truly are behind.
As professionals and parents, it is important to encourage these children to be themselves. Given a firm supportive foundation, sensitive and intellectually advanced children will feel secure to be themselves, even if it does not fit in with the status quo at school. They will know that who they are is special, and it is okay. Perhaps giving them picture books or fiction which explores this theme will show them that they are not the first child to feel different, and it will give them the strength to be themselves. (A wonderful example is A Wind in the Door by Madeline L’Engle, where Charles Wallace struggles to fit in at school but has the support of his family through this very tough time.)
Allowing them outlet at the local public library through topical programs to peak their interest after school or on weekends will give them a place to funnel their creativity, give them a place to explore the curious side of their brain and it’s desire to learn, and give them a haven outside of school where they can meet other kids like them. We must help them create who they will become (Halsted, 1988).