Hurdling common challenges in raising a Gifted Child
It’s never easy to raise a child. While many are often all-too fixated on the confused, exhausted fog that permeates the early months, any parent past the newborn stage will agree that they’d take those spit-ups and sleepless nights over what happens when your baby starts walking and talking—or, more accurately, climbing on things and asking way too many questions.
While it’s definitely a joy to see your mini-mes grow into their own little people, parenting becomes infinitely harder. And much more so with a gifted child, whose unique position comes with its own set of challenges. Here are some of the usual concerns of any parent whose child is proven to be gifted, and some practical advice and solutions.
First of all, it’s perfectly okay to be grateful, but also intimidated, by the reality of your child’s giftedness. Many parents will attest that just because their child seems more mature, eloquent, or smart, doesn’t mean that they can dial back on their parenting. Sometimes, having a very advanced brain in a small body that has to work hard to catch up proves to be even more a struggle.
The first and most important thing to do, then, is to truly accept what you’ve been given—the gift of a gifted child. And the positives certainly will always outweigh the inevitable struggles in nurturing this gift. It will be an emotional rollercoaster for you as much as it will be for your little one, and it’s integral that you realize and accept this. There will be moments of frustration, loneliness, and even fear of being thought of as bragging, especially in a culture that prizes humility.
An integral solution? Support and understanding. In her blog Gifted Challenges, clinical psychologist Dr. Barbara Post writes that support, whether from extended family, your community, chosen school, and even online through sites and forums, is what you need. Through these, you are fortified as a parent of a gifted child, both emotional and psychologically.
That being said, Dr. Post writes on to warn that you must be ready now to be somewhat of an ambassador for giftedness—many people won’t or don’t yet understand what it means, and it will be on you to handle this with aplomb and grace. Your own research and understanding will serve to educate others, and your sheer grit will get you through the inevitable green-eyed monsters you will encounter.
Additionally, there is no cookie-cutter “gifted child” and it’s essential to recognize that your child’s needs may differ from others. This is why it’s especially important to maintain a good relationship with your child’s expert care providers—psychologists, guidance counselors, and the like. The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” has never been more true when it comes to giftedness. There are quite a few local communities you can join or approach for more information: Headway School of Giftedness, Mensa Philippines, and the Philippine Center for Gifted Education are top of mind.
Finally, gear up. The number one thing your gifted child needs is not a special school or a dedicated tutor, but you—an involved, invested parent taking him by the hand and leading the way. You’ll find your own solutions with the financial resources and set of logistics you have, and let no one get under your skin that you aren’t doing enough.
The fact is, schooling is expensive. Additional classes or tutoring, even more so. Even the IQ test requires funds. Your best bet is to get the most value for money in terms of proper nutrition, appropriate stimulation, and enriched experiences. Nourish your child with wholesome, home-cooked meals and supplement with Promil, the ideal follow-on milk that can feed both his brain and body. Source for affordable open-ended toys, puzzles, and games online or in second-hand sales. Turn to Facebook, Instagram, and blogs for ideas for homemade toys and games to stimulate your child. There are plenty of homeschooling mamas and teachers who freely share their ideas. And speaking of homeschooling, this is also something you can consider, as indicated in an article on greatschools.org. This way, you can really focus on taking your cue from your kid and assessing his needs (plenty of gifted kids do just fine in regular schools despite being advanced, while others really do require acceleration or more personalized education).
Ultimately, there’s one absolutely free resource you can make use of to ensure your gifted child is on the right track: your attitude. For a gifted child eager to grow and learn, a trip to the park or grocery is a teachable moment, and you should seize it. Ask your child open-ended questions about what they see or hear. Use what’s around you to learn colors, numbers, and shapes. This article on Parenting.com outlines the importance of communicating with your precious one: praising them for being resilient or committed, engaging in dialogue, and not underestimating how even basic errands and small walks can incite and sustain curiosity.
Expenses can and will add up when raising your gifted child, but reserve your budget for necessary education or professional support. There are many simple paths to take to supplement your child’s growth, and they’re paved in a loving parent’s own ingenuity.
In an article written by Deborah Ruf on the site Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted (sengifted.org—a popular online resource), she reiterates that early on, your gifted child actually has to learn how to underachieve. Imagine sitting in a classroom full of kids only learning how to read while you yourself can tackle reading material well beyond your years. So much time and focus is spent on just trying to blend in. It’s difficult (and lonely) to be so far advanced and so mentally under stimulated, and that easily manifests in “hating” school or having a sullen attitude.
Ruf suggests making sure you maintain a dialogue with your child’s school. In what ways can they support your child’s need for growth? Can he be allowed to join advanced classes, or is he eligible for tutoring? However, this is easier said than done. It often falls on the parent (and not just financially) to further their gifted child, whether within the school’s context (via additional classes or clubs) or outside it (after-school extracurricular activities).
However, there’s a risk in over-scheduling your child—and that’s no fun for anyone involved. Just because your little one seems to be a sponge tirelessly soaking up new knowledge and experiences is no reason to overextend them in the name of providing a challenge. Ruf suggests letting your child take the lead in choosing activities he may feel passionate about, be it math or engineering, or learning an instrument or two. But remember, they need time to unwind too, so keep some afternoons or weekends open. Even if your kid seems insatiable and tireless in his pursuit of learning, you must step in and make sure he gets adequate rest, sleep, and quality time with siblings and friends.