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Helping Gifted Children Cope With Intense Emotions

Updated on June 20, 2015

Gifted Acceleration

Much like every other demographic, gifted children are stereotyped. Many people picture gifted children as perfect in every way. They’re often perceived as diploma-yielding third graders or students obsessed with learning. In reality, these “perfect” children often have challenges, both academic and social or emotional.

Many people do not believe in gifted education. These people tend to believe that gifted children will succeed regardless of educational opportunity, because they are gifted. Studies clearly indicate that this is entirely wrong. Gifted children benefit from gifted instruction.

Other people believe that accelerated instruction is all that is necessary for gifted children. These people tend to believe that gifted children will succeed if their curriculum is merely accelerated. In reality, mere acceleration does little to address the social-emotional needs of gifted children. Instead, it focuses solely on their academic needs. This is a one-sided approach, one that is destined for limited success.

Gifted social-Emotional Characteristics

Gifted children are not necessarily at the same emotional level as their peers. They may be more likely to possess fears and insecurities that have an impact on their social-emotional needs. While accelerating students can be beneficial, it in itself, is an insufficient plan. In addition to providing acceleration and broader conceptualization opportunities, gifted teachers must be able to nurture gifted children by providing added support, particularly social-emotional. While gifted checklists do little but stereotype gifted children, it can be noted most gifted students exhibit at least one of these characteristics:

  1. unreasonable stress
  2. depression
  3. perfectionism
  4. difficulty with friendships
  5. self-esteem problems

Teachers can help gifted children cope with these social-emotional issues. Here are some interventions for each of these common emotional issues associated with gited children:

Stress and Gifted Children

  • Be flexible. Sometimes, all it takes is a little compromise to relieve a lot of stress from gifted children. This might be an extension on a due date or a change in an assignment.
  • Provide breaks. Allowing students to take breaks often relieves stress
  • Talk about the source of stress. Gifted children are like anybody else. A good rapport can go a long way.
  • Teach effective organization and time-management skills. Schedules, lists, and timers are often necessities. All of these can often be incorporated in your class routine, without revealing students who need this additional assistance.
  • Teach skills and attitudes that make tasks easier and more successful.
  • Use humor. Gifted children often have advanced humor. Use this to your benefit, and you can help relieve a gifted child’s stress.

Depression and Gifted Children

  • Create a classroom culture that is open and supportive. Gifted children may get depressed for a variety of reasons. If their classroom is safe and nurturing, they are less likely to show signs of depression in class.
  • Develop a good rapport with your students. By doing this, you’ll better understand your students’ concerns.
  • Use humor in the classroom. Again, humor is a great tool for gifted teachers to use.
  • Use journaling to allow students to express ideas and concerns. Students will often say things in journals that they would never say in person.

Self-Esteem and Gifted Children

  • Avoid labels that might be negative. Have a zero-tolerance policy for negative comments that diminish self-esteem.
  • Celebrate strengths. If a student is good at something, allow him/her to help others or help you with a special project that is talent-related.
  • Do all you can to make sure your students are academically and socially successful. Successful students tend to have greater self-esteem.
  • Praise success. If a student does a great job on something, let him/her know.

Perfectionism and Gifted Children

  • Discuss the differences between excellence and perfection.
  • If you are a perfectionist, share your own personal struggles with perfectionism. Discuss how you and your class cope with perfectionism tendencies.
  • Set Goals. Help students set goals about completing work and how long they are spending on homework completion.
  • Set time limits. Have some assignments due the same day and after a given timeframe. At first this will be a source of stress for perfectionists, but after time, they’ll begin to adapt and complete assignments in a more timely manner.

Friendships and Gifted Children

  • Encourage parents to enroll their children in extracurricular activities. This will help children learn the social skills necessary to make friends.
  • Have students work in ability groups. By doing this, students have opportunities to learn social skills and become friends with people who might have the same abilities or interests.
  • Have students work in similar-interest groups. By doing this, students have opportunities to learn social skills and become friends.

Helping Gifted Children - Comments

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    • arizonataylor profile image

      arizonataylor 5 years ago from Arizona

      You're welcome. I teach a self-contained gifted classroom and get corrected too. Gifted children deserve a balanced education, and that includes emotional support.

      Best wishes.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      This really is a very informational article. I see much of these characteristics in my own son. He is in the AIG (academically and intellectually gifted) program at school and it is just enough for the system to say they are doing something. He plays well with others and has friends but is socially awkward and has little tolerance for mistakes. He is in 3rd grade and spelled malevolently for me the other day when I was stunned he used the word.

      I know the teachers are incredibly busy and my son has a great teacher. She "gets" his gift buy still thinks he should behave just like the other kids and he never will. I must say though, she usually takes it well when he corrects her. lol

      Thanks for a great article.