I'm very excited to be a part of The National Parenting Gifted Children Week blog tour hosted by SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of Gifted). SENG is an invaluable resource for parents and educators and to celebrate, they are offering a free NPGCW ebook - The Joy and the Challenge: Parenting Gifted Children. You can view the entire schedule of the blog tour which runs from 7/17-7/23 by visiting the NPGCW Facebook Event page or SENG's website.
There are many challenges in raising a gifted child which made it difficult in narrowing down my topic for this post. I had wanted to delve into the emotional and intellectual areas too, but I think that I'll let some of the other bloggers, like Christine Fonseca, share their knowledge. I will focus this post on social challenges that my eldest son, who is now ten, has faced over the years.
As a young child my son had an easy time walking up to complete strangers and inviting them over to play. He would give them our address and happily say they were welcome anytime. He craved the social interaction of children and adults. My youngest who is five has been following in his older brother's footsteps, but seems to be a bit more shy with adults at times. Anyway I remember when my eldest was around five and we were shopping in K-mart before the start of Kindergarten. He saw a boy his age wearing a Star Wars shirt and struck up a conversation with him. The boy's mom was near and I got to talking with her about where the kids were going to school and we exchanged phone numbers. We later set up a playdate and their friendship lasted a year or so (it might have lasted longer if they went to the same school). As my son started Kindergarten, he started to realize that he wasn't like most of the kids in his class. His interests were not typical for his age. He loved learning about geography, flags of the world and using various symbols for secret code breaking. The one thing that helped him deal with not being challenged in Kindergarten was an understanding teacher who set up a globe center and my son was able to share his passion with fellow classmates. The social mismatch only intensified with the following school year when he was subject accelerated in ELA to second grade. I think this made him stand out to his peers even more and he really couldn't connect long enough with the kids in the first grade class or second grade class.
As a result of his unhappiness at school that year, I went online searching for anything and everything I could read on giftedness and how to help my child cope. I found SENG articles, the Davidson Institute and it's Young Scholars program, and the NAGC. After finding an online discussion board run by the Davidson Institute, I felt that I wasn't alone and that my son needed to have that feeling as well. I completed the lengthy Young Scholars application for my son and after he was accepted, he was able to e-mail other members, join discussions on bulletin boards and later went to a gathering at a local museum and met other kids like himself. There are other talent development programs out there to help gifted children. Here is a list of just a few others I know of : Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY), Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University, and Duke Talent Identification Program.
Having academic peers in school is very important. My son finally met some when he went to a self-contained gifted classroom for fourth grade and this year in a fifth grade GATE classroom.
You can also find social groups for your child based on his/her interests. My son fell in love with birdwatching so I went online and found a local youth birding group- the Delaware Dunlins- where he met enthusiastic adult leaders and kids that shared his passion for birding. Other activities such as role playing have been helpful in getting boys from our parent's group together for social interaction.
Lastly, don't forget playdates planned by parents and/or kids! Playdates aren't just for preschoolers! Playdates have been very important for both of my sons, but especially for my eldest when he was having a rough time dealing with fifth grade cliques this past year. Having friends to interact with outside of school was very important for him to feel that there were people who liked him.
I hope you enjoyed reading this and if you want to share some ways in which you have taken on the challenge of meeting the social needs of your child, I'd love to read it in my comment section!