Davidson Institute for Talent Development
This Tips for Parents article is from a seminar hosted by Dr. Deirdre Lovecky, who provides an excellent starting point for parents or professionals gathering data about peer relations.
A Davidson Institute Family Consultant conducted a seminar for parents on the subject of peer relations and the profoundly gifted child. The following is a synthesis of information provided to parents from this facilitated discussion group.
- Alone Time. A study was conducted on students who took the ACT. Students who scored in the top 5% were compared to the other test takers, and it was found that the students who scored in the top 5% needed more time to themselves than students who scored lower on the test. Highly intelligent students need some time and space where they can relax with their own thoughts. Too much stimulation can cause problems with the child. To help facilitate this time, watch your child's patterns to see when he/she needs some space and give it to him/her. It is also important to let your child know that it is okay to need this time, and they can ask for it.
- People have friends for different purposes. People have many differences when it comes to interests, intellect, etc. We may be attracted to different people for different reasons, and that is okay. We can have friends who we like to play games with, friends we like to discuss books with, and possibly friends who we go to the movies with. These are all examples of different friends we can have. It is good to have friends for different reasons and to enjoy the uniqueness of each friendship.
- Help facilitate connections for your child with others of similar interests. Facilitate ways for your child to meet friends of different backgrounds and interests. For example, summer camps, sports teams, after school or homeschool clubs, magic cards, etc.
- Set up opportunities for friendships to be made. Parents have to help set up opportunities for the child when he/she struggles in this area; setting up play dates, having siblings, friends and family over, signing them up for sports, etc.
- Modeling. Parents should model good behavior with their own peers. Always remember that your children are watching and to be a good role model for them. When it is appropriate, discuss certain relationships and the dynamics of the relationships with your children. Sharing with your children can help them to see how you handle certain situations and people, and this can help them be successful in this area.
- Social skills groups. Whether your child seems to have good social skills or not, he/she might benefit from being part of a social skills group. Groups are designed for students to work together in learning how to interact with one another, reading social cues, conflict resolution, etc. These are all skills that any person who encounters others on a daily basis could benefit from. Psychologists usually run these groups and to find one, you can look at your local chapter of the psychological association.
- Peers of differing sex and age. Friendships can be formed with many different kinds of people. As stated above, different friendships can have different purposes. It is okay for children to have friends who might be of another gender or different in age. Let your children know if you had similar experiences growing up, and that it doesn't matter who your friends are as long as they treat you with respect.
- Effective tools for success. If your child seems to be struggling with social cues or the handling of certain social situations, role-playing can be very successful. Pick some situations, either real or made up, that you know your child will encounter. Have your child play both sides of the coin, so he or she can feel what it would be like to be on both sides. Through role-playing you can discuss what is successful in dealing with different kinds of people.
- Maintaining connections. Some friendships may happen across a large distance. To help maintain these connections children can use e-mail, write letters, talk on the phone, use web cams to interact online, play games online, or set up visiting vacations close to each other. It is hard to maintain a long distance friendship, so it will take work, but using some of the ideas above can really help.
Our discussion concluded with the fact that struggles with peers will always be present. There are no easy answers when dealing with people. The only thing you can do is to give your child the tools that will help him or her be successful with peers. After that, they will learn as they go. It is a tough road, but with a little hard work and dedication, the friends you end up with will be worth it. Thank you to all the parents of PG children who helped contribute to this discussion. We all benefited greatly from the insight you had to share.Peer Relations Resources
Vulnerabilities of highly gifted children, by Wendy Roedell from the Roeper Review, Volume 6, No. 3, 1984.
Aspects of personality and peer relations of extremely talented adolescents, by Susan Dauber & Camilla Persson Benbow from Gifted Child Quarterly, vol. 34(1), 10-14, Winter 1990.
Highly gifted children and peer relationships, by Dr. Dee Lovecky from Counseling and Guidance Newsletter, 5(3), 2, 6-7, 1995.
Friendship patterns in highly intelligent children, by Paul Janos, Kristi Marwood, & Nancy Robinson from the Roeper Review, vol. 8, no. 1, September 1985.
Tips for parents: Socialization and the PG child, by Jim Delisle from the Davidson Institute for Talent Development Online Seminar.
The Survival Guide for Gifted Kids: For Ages 10 & Under, Galbraith, J.
Making & Keeping Friends: Ready-to-Use Lessons, Stories and Activities for Building Relationships, by Schmidt, J. Ed.D.
When Gifted Kids Don't Have all the Answers: How to Meet their Social and Emotional Needs, by Delisle, J. Ph.D. & Galbraith, J. M.A.
Gifted Kids Speak Out, by Delisle, J.
Good Friends are Hard to Find: Help Your Child Find, Make and Keep Friends, by Frankel F. & Wetmore B.
Some of my best friends are books: Guiding gifted readers from preschool to high school, by Halsted, J.