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Helping a Gifted and Talented Child Through Their Emotional Ups and Downs

Being a parent of a Gifted and Talented (GT) child can be both exciting and frustrating at times.  As parents we beam with pride and excitement over our child’s high academic accomplishments, exceptional talent, and future potential. However, frustration can take over when we see our child struggling in other areas of school; having difficulties with peers, facing boredom, or stressing out over the pressure to perform. Giving GT students a voice for their up and down emotions is critical to their social emotional success in school and life. The Imagine Journaling activity is a perfect format for allowing students to express and move through challenging emotions.

While GT children may find some areas of academics easier than many of their peers, they may not be gifted and/or talented in everything. High achievement, just as is true for adults, isn’t global – there are areas these children excel in, and some where they may struggle. Along with Gifted and Talented, there are Twice-Exceptional (2e) kids. Twice-exceptional kids can be gifted in one area, but may have identified (or even unidentified) learning or other disabilities. Excelling in one or more areas of school, but then struggling to do well in others (even if they are getting descent grades) can create tremendous amounts of stress, anxiety, and feelings of isolation. It’s important to recognize these and offer support.

Stress and Anxiety in Gifted and Talented Children

GT and 2e children are often recognized and praised for their achievements and can become attached to that identity. Fear of failure can then become an obstacle that holds them back from trying new things, especially those outside of their area of talent. They become risk avoidant, shying away from activities where they don’t think they can have the same high levels of success.

Stress creeps in as children become fearful of new experiences. If they do try, and struggle, rather than seeing it as learning, they become perfectionists and beat themselves up over the performance they judge as subpar. This perfectionism can paralyze the student and damage their self-esteem, as it has become part of their identity. Everyone makes mistakes, yet the gifted child will see themselves as a failure.

Lack of resilience, tenacity, and unprocessed, confusing feelings may mean the child will likely face more stress when facing challenges in the future. Sometimes this stress and anxiety shows up in interpersonal relationships, further causing the student to become relationship avoidant and having a negative impact on their self-esteem.

Isolation and Interpersonal Skills

Because GT and 2e children have complex thinking skills, their ability to communicate with others can be difficult. They may feel isolated because they are ‘different’. It’s important to help your child/student communicate – and this may mean encouraging writing and/or artistic or other forms of expression. It’s also important to help them understand the value everyone has for just being human. Because their self-worth is tied up in performance, it’s critical to encourage them to see themselves, and others, as important whether or not they achieve a goal or high level of performance. Encourage and create a safe and supportive space for GT youth to speak and engage with peers.

The Imagine Project

One of the ways GT and 2e youth can learn to express themselves and connect more with their peers is through the Imagine Project. This 7-step writing process can be used individually, in a group, or as part of a classroom curriculum. It supports emotional expression, social balance, and empathy. It fosters increased compassion, and offers healing and hope to children experiencing stress and trauma.

When the students write, and are given the opportunity to share their Imagine stories, they build relationships, reduce the emotional intensity of their pains and stress, and feel heard. They often demonstrate more kindness and build new friendships, while also learning a tool for resilience and expression – so important to all kids, but especially the Gifted and Talented and Twice-Exceptional groups.

The Imagine Project is free and a simple way to introduce (or grow) a youth’s ability to write, self-express emotions, listen and show support and empathy towards others. If they are struggling with pain or trauma, the experience also allows them to move through the hurt and regain hope. The Imagine Project is currently being used by families, teachers, and counselors across the United States and internationally. Go to The Imagine Project and download your free journal now. Do the writing process as a classroom, group, with a family, or individually. GT and 2e kids love it!! So will you!

Thank you!

Dianne

The Imagine Project, Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps kids, teens, and adults overcome challenging life circumstances through expressive writing. Dianne is a thought leader in the area of stress and trauma in children. Her simple, yet profound 7-step writing tool, now used by schools across the US, gives kids and teens the opportunity to rewrite a challenging personal story and Imagine new possibilities in its place.

The Gift of Gratitude

With the holidays comes family, fun, and gifts! There’s no better time of year to each a child (and adults) the importance of gratitude beyond the “Thank you” that comes after receiving a gift. Daily gratitude is such a simple idea/process, yet most people overlook it’s amazing benefits. Dr. David Hamilton, author of Why Kindness is Good for You, writes, “Gratitude is a mark of being kind to life by being aware of all that is around us, and when we are grateful, we acknowledge the people and situations in our life and express thanks for them.” We teach our children to say “thank you,” but it’s also important to model and teach them to see gratitude as a key philosophy of life. Seeing and feeling gratitude every day is one key to being resilient and successful.

There is quite a bit of research on gratitude and it’s positive effects. These positive effects make sense because when you think about what you feel grateful for, you can’t help but feel relaxed, fulfilled, and blessed.

The benefits of gratitude:

  • Greater sense of well-being
  • Improved physical health
  • Improved self-esteem, resilience, and empathy
  • Decreased aggression
  • Increased optimism
  • Improved sleep

Gratitude even improves relationships. Research shows that saying thank you to someone helps to create a more positive relationship. When a child feels gratitude from his or her parents for being helpful or for just being a good kid, the child feels safer and more empowered to say something when they are upset and need to talk.

It is fairly easy to teach kids to practice a life philosophy of gratitude. Using the 30-day Imagine, Gratitude, and Kindness Challenge (Step 7 in My Imagine Journal) is a good place to start—especially during the holidays. Kids can have fun creating a family gratitude board or a gratitude box where everyone can write, keep, and even share what they feel grateful for anytime of year. We play The Gratitude Game in the car or at meal- time. Particularly if someone has had a bad day, this can help them put their experiences in perspective and feel better.

The gratitude game:

Each person takes a turn saying what they are grateful for, beginning with, “I am grateful for…”. We can be grateful for anything in life, even our pillows or phones, waking up on the more or just life in general! Everyone takes at least three turns. By the 3rdturn you should see and feel more positivity in the air!

 If someone is unhappy about something, it may help to first clear the air by letting them talk about what’s upsetting them, while others listen with compassion. After they’ve had their say, feel more relaxed, and are ready to change perspective, switch it to gratitude, and watch moods brighten.

 If someone wants to remain cranky, it might feel like pulling teeth to get them to join the game, but be patient and gently invite them to join when they feel ready. They may be content to listen—and benefit from it—especially if they know it’s not being done to manipulate their mood. Even if they continue to resist, simply let them be, and honor their desire to come around in their own time, on their own terms.

Even before the gifts begin to open, it’s so important to teach a child to find gratitude in every day. Begin each morning by taking turns saying what everyone is grateful for; end each day with the same practice; both are life long practices that positively change brain function and will improve anyone’s outlook on life.

It’s with my deepest gratitude and love for believing in The Imagine Project, Inc.

Happy Holidays,

Dianne