The following article shares highlights and insights from one of our Expert Series events, which are exclusive for Young Scholars and their parents.
Author: Joanna Lee Haase, Ph.D., MFT
Gifted children are challenging to parent in many ways. The more gifted the child, the more often it seems the more the parent is frustrated with the discrepancy of someone able to do school several levels above age level but unable to remember to take their finished work to school.
HG/PG children will often engage in high level discussions on a wide variety of topics one minute and the next minute be melting down because of damaged Lego piece or playground disappointment. Educators may call a conference because the child appears to only pay attention to preferred subjects and not the others and frame this behavior as a character flaw that needs to be fixed, rather than a developmental arc where things will come together at the end as a result of brain development, good parenting and experience. Parents and children will often become frustrated with these challenges, with the result being stress, anxiety and the child may experience significant anxiety, self-doubt, and crippling perfectionism.
It is essential that parents understand the underlying roots of asynchronous development and when to seek help. There is no “one” right way to parent a gifted child, but there are many ways to support your child’s gifted needs while supporting the uneven development. This presentation will present physiological, psychological, and behavioral causes for asynchronous development, as well as best parenting tips and guidelines for when to seek outside help.
- Remember that your child does not develop evenly, on any level. It is important to remember that you look at the big picture, and do not try to “fix” everything all at once. Just because a child is “behind” does not mean it is a problem.
- However, If it is a problem, it is a problem and you need to address it. Many parents will say “oh it is an OE” but if the child’s behavior or functioning is impacted in a significant way, it needs to be addressed. When you are thinking about it being a problem, ask yourself, is this getting better with time and if not, is this something that will affect their ability in the future. For example, if a child becomes hysterical and runs away from loud noises and is not developing skills for managing them over time, it would be wise to get some help in teaching them how to regulate when their system is over stimulated. This way they can live with the issue without being anxious or completely avoidant of those situations. They may still prefer to not enter them, but when they do, they will know what to do. This also helps them build confidence about managing things that are difficult.
- Have a plan for helping your child learn foundational skills they need for life. Look for activities and opportunities where they can learn frustration tolerance, emotional regulation, learning how to learn and resolving conflicts. It doesn’t all have to happen at school or in therapy.
- It is essential that your child learn how to handle stress (the pressure they put on themselves and the pressure they feel from others). Teaching a child how to think about stress and techniques for managing stress (breathing, exercise, medication, relaxation) early on is important for psychological and physical health over a lifetime.
- Asynchronous development does not stop when a child turns 10! This unevenness can continue in different ways into young adulthood. Additionally, children with ASD often have a difficult time dealing with all the new feeling and sensations that come with puberty and may need additional support to understand what is happening and how to think about it.
Social Thinking is a great resource for helping your child learn about how to engage socially. It is not just for ASD but good for kids who have missed some social learning due to pandemic and asynchronous development.
Somatic based therapies are good for gifted individuals because it helps them get “out of their head” and more in touch with the feeling states. Waking the Tiger is the book by Peter Levine, that explains on type of somatic therapy, Somatic Experiencing, as well as how trauma is stored in the body.