Love, laugh, listen, and learn. Raising and nurturing a gifted child can be an exciting yet daunting challenge.
· Learn to be positive. Giftedness can be an exciting challenge or a chore, depending on how you see a child’s characteristics. For example, persistence and stubbornness are the same trait.
· Understand the way that your child’s giftedness affects his or her needs: Intellectual, social, emotional, and physical needs. For example, ideas forged by eight-year-old minds may be difficult to produce with five-year-old hands.
· Be a knowledgeable advocate. The brighter the child is, the greater is his or her emotional complexity and potential vulnerability. You might have to educate the educators.
· Read aloud to your child. It is important that parents read to their gifted child often, even if the child is already capable of reading.
· Help your child discover personal interests. Stimulation and support of interests are vital to the development of talents. Parents should expose their child to their own interests and encourage the child to learn about a wide variety of subjects, such as art, nature, music, and sports, in addition to traditional academic subjects such as math, reading, and science.
· Encourage the support of extended family and friends. As an infant, a gifted child can exhaust new parents because he or she often sleeps less than other babies and requires extra stimulation when awake. (It can be helpful to have extended family in the home, grandparents who live nearby, or close friends in the neighborhood who can spend some time with the child so the primary caretakers can get some rest and to give the infant added — or different — stimulation.)
· Speak and listen to your child with consideration and respect. From the time he or she can talk, a gifted child is constantly asking questions and will often challenge authority. “Do it because I said so” doesn’t work. Generally, a gifted child will cooperate more with parents who take the time to explain requests than with more authoritarian parents.
· Teach your child how to find information and resources in a variety of ways. Gifted children need to know, to learn, to solve, and to ponder. There will be times when your child’s expertise on a topic will be greater than yours, and you will not be able to provide answers or solutions.
· Be a welcome person in your child’s school or educational environment. If educators know you first as a willing volunteer, they will be more responsive when you want something for your child.
· Become involved in a local, state, or regional parent group. Or join an email list. Parents of gifted children need opportunities to share parenting experiences and problem solving strategies with one another. And it takes the persistence of large groups of parents to ensure that provisions for gifted children are kept firmly in place.
· The key to raising gifted children is to respect their uniqueness, their opinions and ideas, and their dreams. It can be painful for parents when their children feel out of sync with others, but it is unwise to put too much emphasis on the importance of fitting in; children get enough of that message in the outside world. At home, children need to know that they are appreciated for being themselves.
· Love, laugh, listen, and learn.
Dr. Gnap is a family practice physician and behavioral medicine specialist in suburban Chicago. Dr. Gnap developed the Inner Control™ Program in 1970 and has worked with thousands of people to improve and correct medical, emotional, behavioral and learning problems including performance. He started the Inner Control program because so many patients asked, “what more can be done along with traditional treatment methods?”