The following article shares highlights and insights from one of our Expert Series events, which are exclusive for Young Scholars and their parents.
Authored by: Kelly Pryde, PhD
“What you are looking for is already in you…You already are everything
you are seeking.” –Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh
Navigating the intensity and complexity of parenting a profoundly gifted child is a unique kind of whirlwind that is both incredible and daunting. Parents often find themselves overwhelmed, wondering: Am I doing this right? Do I have what is needed to raise this child? What do I need to learn, research and understand so I can advocate for my child and ensure their gifted well-being?
While this journey indeed entails a steep learning curve, one of the greatest gifts you can offer your child, and yourself, isn’t to be found outside of you in books or seminars, but from a mindful presence that is already within each of us.
Mindfulness and self-compassion practices offer timeless and evidence-based tools that can support the traits and needs of profoundly gifted children and their parents. Non-stop complex thought, passion, perfectionism, emotional intensity, and self-identity, all require an uncommon amount of spaciousness, agency of attention (the capacity to choose where one’s attention goes), and compassion to flow and express in healthy ways. Without these skills, the minds and bodies of profoundly gifted individuals, and their loved ones, can become quite constricted leading to their intensity and complexity to be like Niagara Falls trying to flow through a garden hose.
This presentation offers wisdom stories and practices that enable parents to discover their own capacity for mindful presence and learn simple, yet powerful, tools and strategies they can use in their everyday lives for the flourishing of their gifted child . . . and themselves.
- Finding the Ground Practice
The simple practice of finding our body’s connection with the ground shifts our attention from the farthest place where overwhelming sensations of intensity and complexity happen (i.e., in the head and upper body) into our feet and connection with the ground. As we tune in to the sensations of our feet on the ground and a feeling of being supported, it engenders a grounded awareness and a kind of ‘grounding wire’ for intensity.Some people find it helpful to repeat a gatha which is a poetic phrase in the Zen tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh that can be calming:“Breathing in, I calm my body and mind.
Breathing out, I smile.
Touching the ground, I am held, I am home.”This practice can be done standing or walking (especially barefoot outdoors), sitting, lying in bed or when engaged in a creative task such as journaling or drawing, feeling into the connection with the paper or canvas.
- Mindful Poetry Practice
Poetry is a deep form of mindfulness practice that shifts us out of the busy, constant churning of the thinking mind by engaging the gifted senses, emotions and imagination, and helps one find calm and presence. Poets such as Mary Oliver, Rumi, John O’Donohue, Thich Nhat Hanh, Ocean Vuong, Nikita Gill, Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson are often favorites of older kids and parents.Books such as Breathe and Be by Kate Coombs use poetry and illustrations to show younger children practices that can help them find calm, regulate their emotions, and engage in their appreciation of the world.
- Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC)
The practice of offering oneself compassion in moments of perceived inadequacy or failure, loneliness, being misunderstood, or other painful experiences is deeply transformative for profoundly gifted children and their loved ones. Gifted-specific MSC supports us in recognizing the shared experience of struggles with intensity, sensitivity & complexity and turning toward our difficulties with kindness and support rather than self-criticism and/or self-isolation. Ways to offer ourselves self-compassion (and to teach your children) include:
- Gentle Touch: placing one or both hands over your heart space, engaging in a self-hug, wrapping yourself in a warm blanket
- Soothing Self-Talk: offering yourself phrases such as “It’s hard to feel this intensely; may I be gentle with myself”, “May I give myself permission to rest”, and “May I forgive myself for making mistakes on this complex path of gifted parenting.”
- The Wisdom of Not Knowing
A foundational teaching in the Zen tradition reminds us that there is a state of mind beyond thinking and needing to solve that is rich with possibility and not attached to a controlled, certain outcome. Not Knowing gives us permission to not have to have all the answers and get everything right. This is helpful not only for parents but also for kids who often feel the pressure of “I’m supposed to know everything” that comes with the PG label.
- Planting Seeds of Mindfulness by Dorothy Sisk, PhD and Michele Kane, PhD
- The Gifted Kids Workbook: Mindfulness Skills to Help Children Reduce Stress, Balance Emotions and Build Confidence by Heather Boorman, MSW, LCSW
- Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh
- Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff, PhD
- The Self-Compassion Workbook For Teens: Mindfulness And Compassion Skills To Overcome Self-criticism And Embrace Who You Are by Karen Bluth
- Mindful Self-Compassion Resources – https://centerformsc.org/ and https://self-compassion.org/ offer free resources and guided meditations
- Mindfulness Apps: Smiling Mind, Calm, Headspace and Insight Timer
Kelly Pryde, PhD, is a psychologist, coach, and mindfulness/meditation teacher specializing in giftedness and mindfulness-based approaches to living well with intensity and complexity. She holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of Waterloo in Canada as well as a JDPSN (teaching authorization) in the Zen tradition, and has spent the last decade in partnership with InterGifted adapting mindfulness practices to support the unique needs of the gifted and twice-exceptional. Kelly is the founder and guiding facilitator of the Gifted Mindfulness Collective, an organization that explores mindfulness as a transformative path to wholeness of gifted being via community, courses and creative expression. Kelly lives in Toronto, Canada with her neurodivergent family of four – her original monastery for mindful, compassionate living.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.