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To Tell Or Not To Tell

Parents often wonder if they should tell their child that he or she is gifted. Some may feel that if they pass this information along it will inflate their ego or it may confuse them. Even educators do not agree on whether or not this information should be discussed with the child. However, there is considerable evidence that discussing a child’s giftedness with him or her is beneficial to the child and significantly helpful to their development.

Imagine for a moment that you are a gifted child. (And if you’re the parent of a gifted child, you likely were one, too.) You speak with a vocabulary that is more advanced than that of your peers. You pay attention to small details around you and want others to do this, too. The material you’re learning in school often bores you and you can think of many other things about which you’d rather learn. The children around you don’t seem to understand the world the way you do. Even the teacher appears to be bothered when you point out inconsistencies or mistakes in his teaching. What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you seem to fit in and connect to others the way most children your age do?

This scenario is not uncommon for gifted children; even the very young. When gifted children become teen-agers and adults they can often look back on their younger years and realize that they knew something was different about themselves. They may not have been able to put a name to it but they could sense the differences. Providing a child with an explanation about what makes him or her so unique can be a great relief.

The key to this conversation is in how you discuss the issue. Parents who only tell their children that they are extremely smart and provide little or no more details may be either just fueling their ego or setting them up to fail. If, for example, a child is always told how smart he is and then runs into a challenging problem or issue, he may begin to think he is not as smart as originally thought. Therefore, discussing giftedness with a child should include some or all of these points:

~ explain that their brain functions differently than most children their age; it learns quickly and more deeply (not just that they’re “so smart”)
~ talk about ways that your child feels connected or disconnected from her peers
~ use phrases and language that encourage hard work and perseverance from your child rather just complementing the innate ability
~ remind your child that it’s OK to work hard and that his or her giftedness may not show up in every area of learning
~ discuss your child’s highest areas of interest and find ways to nurture these
~ provide opportunities for your child to spend time with other gifted children

A gifted child will learn to become better adjusted and accept his or her giftedness if parents and guardians speak honestly and openly about their abilities. Adults who treat giftedness as some great secret that should be kept from their children may be sending harmful messages to children. Part of growing up is learning to be comfortable with who we are. Gifted children may feel that they are unacceptable if their true nature is not discussed and encouraged to flourish.

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Content copyright © 2013 by Bonnie DeLong. All rights reserved.
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