Social and Emotional Struggles with Gifted Children 5 Years Old and Under As Witnessed by a Child Therapist (and Mom)
By Ellen D. Begley, MAEd, RN, NCC, LPC for sixtysecondparent.com
The wonderful strengths and attributes that a gifted child displays can also lead to difficult social relationships and emotional struggles. It often seems that gifted children are more
Gifted preschoolers have disproportional development between their motor skills and their conceptual abilities. They may want to copy something they have seen or create something they are imagining and yet their fine motor skills are not able to perform adequately to enable them meet that goal. Consequently, they become emotionally upset, and the volcano erupts.
Perfectionism is an on-going problem with gifted individuals, including preschoolers that want their product to look like their picture or idea. Their unrealistic self expectations may insure that they will feel inadequate and discouraged.
Their struggles may intensify when they become overly cautious, as they see all the possible dilemmas and difficulties with activities. They may avoid trying something new. Coping with a tendency to bind up when facing new challenges can become a life-long frustration in decision-making.
In peer relationships, often the gifted children find that they are more comfortable with older children and not so much with those of their own chronological age.
Many gifted children experience what is called “hypersensitivity”. They may be overly sensitive to the emotions of others and may overreact to peer and family issues causing conflicts. They may also be extra sensitive to the environment including noise, light, or confusion, sometimes causing difficulty in social settings.
The National Association of Gifted Children came out with a list linking characteristic strengths of gifted children with possible problems that might develop. Below are a few of their ideas.
Strengths Possible Problems
Acquires/retains information quickly Impatient with others; dislikes routine
Curious Asks embarrassing questions
Intrinsically motivated Strong-willed and resists directions
High energy, alertness, eagerness Frustration with inactivity; may seem hyperactive
Seeks to organize things and people Constructs complicated rules; often seen as bossy
Helpful hints from someone who has been there:
Parents’ understanding of these very typical challenges is critically important. Parents are the child’s primary teacher and advocate. You know your children better than anyone else, and you can assist them in understanding themselves.
Parent support groups are helpful for finding other parents with similar experiences and sharing both insights and difficulties. Parenting is a challenge with any child. Parents of gifted children may experience emotional exhaustion more frequently, and sometimes more intensely. Having understanding friends and those “in the same boat” can be a comfort.
For guidance through your years of raising gifted children, look for professionals who are educated and experienced in the area of gifted children and their issues. I still recall the elementary principal telling me that I had a “normal gifted child”. That was such a relief to hear the word “normal” associated with my child, and I was able to connect and relate to other parents of “normal” gifted children.