Parenting during Covid-19 is a new experience for everyone, but what if you’re the parent of a gifted child? There’s often a misconception that teaching gifted kids is easier, but this isn’t necessarily true.
When my own gifted children were young, I was faced with the constant misconception that, because they were gifted, they didn’t need extra support. That couldn’t be further from the truth! Gifted children require just as much time, energy, and understanding as anyone--only in their own, unique way.
What makes gifted children different?
Gifted children, like any children, are complex. The National Association for Gifted Children lists the following as common characteristics of gifted children:
Insatiable curiosity with constant questioning
Advanced levels of moral judgment and a strong sense of justice
Independence in academic work
High energy, spontaneity, and enthusiasm
Passion about topics and perseverance in learning about those topics
High standards for oneself and high levels of frustration when those standards aren’t met
Emotional sensitivity, empathy, and awareness of being different
How can I support my gifted child during Covid-19?
Parents of gifted children encounter unique challenges when it comes to keeping their gifted children engaged, active and curious--challenges amplified by Covid-19. Here are a few ways you can support your gifted child during the pandemic:
Provide space for creative projects. Because gifted children are so passionate, they will likely have strong interests. Find time each day, or at least each week, for them to pursue interests outside of the regular school curriculum. This can be as simple as setting aside 30 minutes for your child to practice guitar, build a model of the solar system, or create an at-home museum. Allow your child to choose the topic and don’t get too involved beyond offering support.
Take a step back academically (when appropriate). It may seem counterintuitive, especially if your child is academically focused, but resist the urge to hover. Since many gifted children are independent learners, they likely have school work under control. You may need to occasionally assist with work habits, technology and organization, but hold off on asking teachers for extra assignments or quizzing your child after dinner each night. Allow the extra time in your child’s schedule to be used for creative pursuits that excite them.
Also, avoid falling for the misconception that, once a child is labeled as gifted, they’ll never struggle or fail. It’s important to note that “giftedness” isn’t universal. For example, your child could be gifted in math, but struggle with reading comprehension.
[Related: Easing your child's anxiety about the upcoming school year]
Focus on effort and growth, rather than success and failure. One major roadblock for gifted kids is that they might give up easily. Since some academic concepts come naturally, they may hit a roadblock when faced with learning a difficult skill. Gifted children often don’t do well with failure!
Researcher Carol Dweck found that most people either have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. People with fixed mindsets think their intelligence is set, whereas those with a growth mindset believe that they can improve with practice and effort (even if they’ve failed in the past!). They have the perseverance to overcome struggles and look at mistakes as learning opportunities.
Take some time to discuss failure with your child, and even cheer them on when their efforts don’t produce the “right” result. Help them reframe success around the effort they put into a task, rather than whether they arrive at the correct answer.
Intentionally address social and emotional needs. All children are struggling with some level of social isolation and anxiety during the pandemic, but this can be exacerbated for gifted students who often have a natural awareness of other people’s emotions.
During this time, it’s important to address these issues head-on. To combat social isolation, try to set up social activities for your child, whether it’s a Zoom session with grandparents or an interactive computer game.
For gifted children who experience increased anxiety due to Covid-19, be sure to validate their fears and feelings rather than telling them everything will be okay. You might say, for example, “It’s normal to be scared. I’m scared, too.”
Take care of yourself, too. Try to keep your own feelings in check through exercise, mindfulness and plenty of sleep. The more even-keeled you are, the more your child will pick up on it.
These are uncertain times, but understanding your gifted child and working to support them at home goes a long way. We’re all in this together!