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Friendship and the Gifted Child (and the Pandemic)

Highlights from Expert Series

The following article shares highlights and insights from one of our Expert Series events, which are exclusive for Young Scholars and their parents.

It can be hard not to worry about your gifted or 2e child’s social life at the best of times. You may wonder if they have enough friends, or why their interactions seem so challenging compared to those of other kids. Your child might need more adult guidance, or it may be hard for them to find like-minded peers. It turns out that just as many of these kids need a different approach academically, they have different social needs, too, including more tailored parenting than some “go out and play” kids require. It’s OK to be different and it’s even better if we can help them find what works for them.

These are not the best of times, though. The additional challenge of the pandemic has increased anxiety and limited opportunities for kids to meet in person. We’ll touch on that, as well.

Top Tips for Promoting Friendships for Your Gifted Child

  1. The role of a parent is to create an environment that is safe, structured, and supportive, in which a child can explore, make decisions, make mistakes and self-correct, in order to become an independent and self-sufficient adult. (C. Goodwin & M. Gustavson, Writing Your Own Script)
  2. Children know when they are different, often suspecting they are “broken” long before anyone else acknowledges their uniqueness (the other kids may pick up on this, too). They also may engage in activities where they have strengths, but avoid those where they feel inadequate or for fear of being “found out” as a broken child. They are better off understanding themselves than being allowed to default to negative assumptions and poor self-concept.
  3. Helping kids understand that not everyone communicates the same way, and making the effort to find common ground can have a big payoff.
  4. Friends can be found in person or online: in a classroom, at a hobby shop, in the park, at a presentation or lecture, on a gaming or Discord server… Parents often believe everything they hear about online friendships, but they should not. Of course basic precautions should be taken, but both kids and adults can benefit from people with whom they share an interest but don’t happen to live near.
  5. A variety of causes can potentially manifest in a set of common behaviors. Detecting what is actually happening neurologically beats the pants off of psychological guesswork
  6. Parents can and should facilitate experiences in a manner most appropriate for their child.
  7. Accept that advocating for your child’s needs in a world of grouping by age, averages, and expectations can be challenging. Your child may not share your interests or what “everyone else” is into.
  8. Facing the disapproval or judgment of others who say you are coddling your child, or who claim a diagnosis is an excuse rather than an explanation, makes holding your ground require more effort. Sometimes we just have to ignore the advice of your neighbor’s cousin-in-law’s Aunt Sally who used to teach in the 1950s.
  9. Scaffolding allows our kids to use their strengths to move ahead while continuing to provide opportunities for development both intellectually and emotionally.
  10. Remind them about perspective (time) and friendship cycles. What they learn by reading or watching shows probably isn’t especially realistic.
  11. Don’t rule out non-obvious resources
  12. Listen, listen, listen. And help kids to process their pandemic losses/grief.
  13. Self care. No, really. If you won’t do it for you, remember that you are modeling it for your own kids. What do you want them to learn when they watch you?
  14. There will be no one-size-fits-all solution. Your best bet is to play detective, do your best to understand your child and build good communication with them, and then trust your own instincts (while checking back with your child regularly).

Additional Resources

Making the Choice: When Typical School Doesn’t Fit Your Atypical Child, C Goodwin & M Gustavson

Writing Your Own Script: A Parent’s Role in the Gifted Child’s Social Development, C Goodwin & M Gustavson

Exceeds Expectations Learning – Tutoring and mentoring for gifted and 2e kids

Neuroscience of Giftedness: Physiology of the Brain – a series of short papers to help you understand what’s under the hood

Twice Exceptional – Smart Kids with Learning Differences

Existing literature suggests that the gifted brain is different from a neurotypical brain, and we will address these differences and their potential implications in a series of short articles.

Authored by: Corin Goodwin
Bio: Corin Barsily Goodwin has presented workshops on giftedness, learning differences, autism in children and adults, and education related issues for many years. Corin has parented her own 2e kids, as well as having guided hundreds of other parents over that interesting and stimulating terrain for over two decades. Her work has been seen in NAGC (US) Parenting for High Potential, 2e Newsletter, California Association for the Gifted’s Gifted Ed Communicator, the NAGC (UK) magazine, California HomeSchooler, SENG Update, Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, and many other publications. Corin also served on the SENG Editorial Board and the Advisory Boards of the Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund and The G Word Documentary, and is co-author with Mika Gustavson of Making the Choice: When Typical School Doesn’t Work for Your Atypical Child; Writing Your Own Script: A Parents’ Role in the Gifted Child’s Social Development; and a chapter in the textbook, Interplay of Creativity and Giftedness in Science.

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