This week we are exploring the emotional development of gifted individuals. This is the section section of four parts.
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)
Today we look into the third trait:
3. Getting along with others
There is a precious balance between who we are and how we fit in to the world around us (Halsted, 1988).
Giftedness is better shared – they can find peers who are into what drives them; there are peers who enjoy the same subjects or respects them for their differences. They don’t have to be the same age, or go to the same school, but mutual respect and the ability to talk freely will aid their transition into friendship. Perhaps through programs at the library or at the museum or a camp – there are outside meeting places where they can find like-minded individuals. These relationships will give them confidence and encourage them to be themselves. They will carry these “highs” through the low times of feeling isolated and different (Halsted, 1988).
What about the other kids? The kids that don’t like them or treat them with indifference? Halsted says that the gifted children must do something that is normally required of adults, but it will give peace on the subject: treat the others with empathy (1988). Recognizing that dealing with individuals with differing abilities and temperaments means looking beyond their bullying or scorn. It means wondering what that person’s situation is like at home, whether someone treats them the way they are treating them, or why they feel the need to disrespect someone or make them feel low. It will give the mistreated individual a buffer between the other children and themselves because they are giving them a pass. They will realize that obviously something is amiss with the other individual, otherwise they would not feel the need to treat someone poorly just because they are different. Librarians can give children of all ages books on empathy to show how they can all be more mindful of others, and in the process make their own edges a bit softer.
Parents and teachers are other people the gifted child must encounter and with whom they must get along.
- Parents sometime do not accept a child’s giftedness or they may even exploit it or expect too much because of its existence. Is it possible for an educator or librarian to get a book about giftedness to the adult to aid them with understanding the sort of child they have and what they need, emotionally? Sometimes even if parents are told it doesn’t mean that they will have the insight to support the child or give them what they need. If that is the case, maybe an outside influence can help at school in the way of a teacher or librarian or counselor. Perhaps the child can find a mentor in the subject in which they are interested.
- If the parent denies the giftedness and doesn’t want to deal with gifted class or extra work to keep the child stimulated because “giftedness” as a label isn’t something they want for their family, the teacher or librarian which does recognizes the differences in the child can help them, subtly. They can be emotional support for them at school or the library. They can give them books or ideas about where to spend their extracurricular time to fill the gap in education.
- Teachers can be a wonderful resource for gifted kids or they can be the bane of the child’s existence. If they do not want the child to appear different, they may scold them for working ahead or asking for more work (Halsted, 1988). Sometimes children can question what the teacher holds dear and that will set off a contentious relationship. In a situation like this, the child must learn to deal with a prickly authority figure. Unless absolutely unbearable, they must attempt to respect the situation and learn how to be polite in a difficult situation. Obviously if it is a terrible situation they can approach another adult who can help them. Teachers can be a wonderful influence on a child, and if they understand the needs of the gifted child they can help them grow in a positive way.