Davidson Institute for Talent Development
This Tips for Parents article is from a seminar hosted by Jim Delisle, who covers several strategies for dealing with socialization issues of highly gifted young children. Delisle draws upon his own experience as well as those of parents.
Editor's Note: The following is a synopsis of a Davidson Institute seminar discussion with parents of profoundly gifted students conducted by Dr. James Delisle on socialization and the profoundly intelligent child.
When this seminar began, I had hoped to be able to offer some concrete advice on how to help your PG kids get more tuned in to the socialization arena (if they needed that), continue to progress as the social beings that they are (success breeds success!), or to come to understand that the "rules" of socialization are often unwritten and are neither universally understood nor applied (by adults or kids!). What I came to learn, thanks to the many on-line respondents who shared both advice and solace, was that all I needed to do was put out a "teaser" comment or example, and the rest of you filled in the blanks with stories from your own kids' lives. I may have been the "Captain," but it was the "crew" who came through and did the hardest work. Thank you...and thank each other!
As I read each posting on this topic, I jotted down some notes about the more common pieces of wisdom and experience shared among those who participated. Here are several of them:
- Socialization is more of a problem in large groups than in small ones.
Often, these problems manifested themselves at school but not at home, or at neighborhood "free for alls" (kids everywhere), but not during one-on-ones with your PG child and another child.
- PG kids had more social difficulties with "age mates" than "peers."
An age mate is someone who shares your year of birth, but a peer is someone who shares your soul, your mind, and your interests. Sometimes these groups overlap, but with PG kids, not often enough.
- PG kids need to understand that it is OK to preserve those parts of themselves that are more introspective and contemplative.
The term used by many parents who responded was "introverted," but I prefer "introspective and contemplative," as they seem to carry less baggage than does the term "introvert." Especially in the middle school years, when loud, abrasive, in-your-face interactions are common and expected, PG kids might begin to think they are "weird" if they prefer quieter outings or relationships. They need to know they are not weird, but just operating at a social level that, like their minds, outpaces itself.
Being intellectually able, in and of itself, can make a PG kid "different" enough in a regular classroom that it impacts socialization.
- Educators and others often miss the connection between scholastic performance and social relationships.
If non-PG kids feel they are being "shown up" by able classmates, the result may be social ostracism, even for kids who had, heretofore, been accepted by classmates.
- Parents of PG kids often faced the same social issues that their children are now facing--and, in fact, the adults may still be facing some of these issues.
Many a parent of a PG kid feels like a "minority of one," the only adult in his/her social group who thinks as deeply or feels so intently. Like their children, they sometimes go underground rather than address what has been a lifelong issue of social adequacy. In such instances (and please remember that this feeling is NOT universal), parents feel powerless to help their children succeed in an arena where the did not -- indeed, DO not.
- Sports help.
It's blatant, it's obvious, and it may be wrong, but athletic involvements often work to a child's social advantage. Blame our culture, which could pay 200 University professors' annual salaries for the cost of a one year contract in professional baseball, but the truth is still there: involvement in sports makes even the smartest kid a little more "regular looking" in the eyes of others. This does not mean that you should force your children to participate in athletics against their wills, but it does imply that the hurdles they might jump over on the track field help in the social field, too.
Tentative Conclusions (I LOVE oxymoron's)
- Involve your PG child with kids of multiple ages when they share common interests. The only time in life that people are pigeonholed for socialization specifically by age is during school years. If your child is more comfortable with kids older or younger -- or even with adults -- that's fine. In fact, it's common for gifted children.
- If your child encounters social difficulties, have them "re-live" with you both what happened and who said what, and give them the chance to dissect why these hurt feelings were there -- on both their part and that of the other person(s). When this is finished, ask them to discuss with you several alternate solutions, should another event like this arise.
- Don't let even well-meaning adults turn your introspective child into something s/he is not. Too often, adults try to "fix" kids' attitudes or behaviors, without even asking if the child is uncomfortable enough to want to be helped! Since many adults (including teachers) have had little exposure to PG kids, they may believe "what works for one kid works for all." Well, no. So, if you have an introspective child and someone says "She should interact more with her peers," ask yourself these questions: "is my child isolated or simply seeking quiet?"; "is my child in a social situation outside of the context in which this person sees him/her?"; and, "who's problem is this?" If it's more an issue for the person trying to change your child than it is for your child personally, take this into account before you develop a plan of action.
I hope you enjoyed this on-line seminar and that this synopsis does, indeed, reflect the views of many of you who participated in it. Take care. Hug those kids!
Contributed by: Parent on 12/3/2010
Hello. I am a psychologist (for adults). My son is almost 4 but I have long suspected that he is, at the evry least, extremely bright. He prefers the company of adults, struggles socially, and has a thirst for information and the ability to absorb it that far exceeds what is expected at his chronological age. His teachers are pushing him to initiate play with peers but he prefers to talk to the teachers. It hurts his feelings when they don't talk to him. They encourage him to "tell a friend" but his "friends" are no interested in what he is interested in. Any suggestions?