Easing the Gifted Child Through Life’s Transitions

Major life transitions like starting school, moving, meeting new friends and starting new activities are challenging for everyone but to a gifted child they can induce anxiety and fear.

Major life transitions like starting school, moving, meeting new friends and introducing new activities are challenging for everyone but to a gifted child they can raise the level of anxiety and fear to extraordinary levels. Part of a gifted child’s comfort zone is being able to operate in a familiar system where they feel known, accepted and nurtured. In new environments this sense of safety can become threatened by uncertainty.

We must remember that some level of nervousness and worry is normal in new situations. However, there are several things that you can do, and help your child do, to minimize the impact of the worry. First, we must remember that our thinking ignites our worry. That means that if we are thinking worrisome things, our “fight or flight” part of our brain is activated and we will feel nervous in our body. Next, we need to identify, and help our kids identify, the content of our thoughts and then change them into something a little more adaptive and hopeful and less catastrophic. For example, you might identify your anxious thought to be, “I hope my child doesn’t have a bad experience and get teased by others.” You can change this to something like, “I am looking forward to a to turning this into a positive opportunity to learn and grow.” Similarly, your child might be thinking, “I afraid that I will fail.” You can help him change his thinking to something like “It’s perfectly okay to ask for help if I need it.” These examples may sound over-simplified, but they really do work in calming your mind.

In addition to the above examples of thinking strategies, there are also environmental strategies that can be helpful in reducing yours and your child’s worry.

First, set up some goals with your child. Talk about what your child’s worst fears are put some tools into place to help counteract them. If your child is afraid of not knowing anyone in their new activity group or class room, set up a meeting with the leader so that your child feels they are on his or her side.

Next, develop rituals surrounding this new activity. If you have moved to a new home, take your child out once a day to find something new and interesting about your neighborhood. If they are starting a new school, give them some examples of ways to talk to a new friend and get to know them a little better.

The last very important thing to do is – focus on the present. Try to take one day at a time and deal with the challenges if, and when, they come.

Dr. Dan Peters, Ph.D., is co-founder of the Summit Center (http://summitcenter.us/), which provides psychological and educational assessments and counseling for children and adolescents, specializing in the gifted, creative, and twice-exceptional.

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GlenShannon November 08, 2012 at 09:57 PM
What exactly are "the gifted, creative, and twice-exceptional" – Is that opposed to the "remedial, uninspired, and underscheduled"? Are non-gifted kids free from these anxieties?
Trixie November 11, 2012 at 08:37 PM
All children are "gifted".
dj November 11, 2012 at 09:16 PM
No, all children are not gifted intellectually. This is exactly what's wrong with NCLB. All children are not intellectual equals, and the current system does not address the needs of gifted children at all if they are not in wealthy schools.
Chris J Kapsalis November 11, 2012 at 09:45 PM
How can anyone tell who is gifted? Einstein was thought to be slow. It was clear later, maybe at 20 years old what he was. So who knows. I think these labels do them a disservice, because gifted or not you will just be a number when you turn 18 unless someone recognizes your genius and puts you in front of the line. Lots of humans are super smart. And they will inevitably get it wrong anyway. I would guess half the kids they think are so called gifted will not be, and half will remain in the general population of other less intelligent students. This whole thing is strange. But if someone is bored and acing tests without study and you think they are being held back, then yes let them excel. Otherwise I think we should drop labels like gifted, normal or slow. And no matter what gifts you are given, you still have to have the drive and practice, exercise your brain. They will do that anyway. I don't think you can hold back true genius and drive.


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