The emotional needs of gifted children are often misunderstood
A gifted child comprise of two basic components which are emotional and intellectual in nature. The intellectual complexity of such children would normally go hand in hand with emotional depth. The thinking of such children is complex and has more depth than other children, while their emotions are also more complex and intense in nature. This is why you should be extremely careful and pay more attention in handling the emotional needs of gifted children.
This article will highlight some of the most important tips in handling the emotional needs of gifted children in a proper way.
Intense way of experiencing the world
The intensity and the range of emotions that a gifted child can experience at a given time is vast. Such children feel their emotions in “completeness” as most of the parents and guardians of gifted children are so familiar. It is not really a matter of feeling emotionally sensitive than normal children, but a different way of experiencing the world.
These children experience the world in a more vivid, absorbing, penetrating and complex way emotionally than other children. They may experience positive and negative feelings with such intensity that it may be difficult from them to process their feelings at the beginning. They can move from one feeling to another in a short period of time. Gifted children can easily identify with the feelings of the other people around them. They may laugh and cry together with other people since these children are unable to control their feelings easily.
Emotions out of control
Gifted children would often express their intense emotions as bodily symptoms. A tense stomach, sinking heart, nausea, headaches and blushing are quite common among gifted children. These children are able to remember the exact incident that triggered a particular emotion since their memory is so good. They can re-feel and re-live these memories even long afterwards the incident had occurred.
Feelings of fear and guilt can go out of control in such children due to their emotional sensitivity. This is why a parent should always be watchful about these children. Gifted children can go into far extremes in self-judgement and self-evaluation. This can affect such a child in a negative way if not rectified early on.
Most of the parents of gifted children are unaware of this emotional sensitivity of their children. Hence a little attention is paid in this regard. Humankind has not been taught to express their emotions in its fullness. Expressing intense feelings has been viewed as a sign of emotional instability rather than a sign of a person having a rich inner-life. Hence feeling everything in life more deeply than normal children can be painful and frightening at times for these children. Gifted children would process such emotions as being abnormal. They wonder if something is really wrong with them. This can fuel self-criticism, fear and an inferiority complex in such kids.
Hence, it is vital to teach gifted children to look at their emotional intensity to things happening around them as a normal phenomenon for them. If not, other children may ridicule a gifted child for reacting strongly even to a trivial incident. Gifted children need to be taught to accept their intense emotions as normal for them. They need the understanding and support of their parents and guardians in this regard. Self awareness and self acceptance are two of the most vital qualities that a gifted child should develop. Parents of gifted children should exercise appropriate discipline in order to help their children to develop a sense of security, which would eventually lead to self discipline and self acceptance.
Dealing with extreme emotions
Discussing emotions and feelings openly is extremely important to train your gifted child to adapt to his or her emotional sensitivity. An “emotional thermometer” would be helpful in evaluating their feelings on a 1-10 scale. Ask them on an hourly or daily basis, how they are feeling at that particular moment. They should be encouraged to come out with whatever they are feeling at that particular moment, be it positive or negative. Listen to their descriptions in a non-judgmental way. Don’t interfere or criticize them for having such feelings. Appreciate their intensity and passion, and don’t ever try to minimize their feelings just because you feel uncomfortable about it.
It is extremely helpful to reassure them when they are afraid, and help them to express their intense emotions through poems and stories. Physical activity is another way of expressing intense emotions. Show them how they can release these intense emotions by performing physical activities such as exercises and play. You need to emphasize to your gifted child that emotional sensitivity doesn’t mean weakness. Don’t try to overprotect them from the world as it can affect them badly later on.
As a final step, it is important to seek professional counseling whenever appropriate. The above tips would help you immensely in dealing with the emotional needs of gifted children.
Additional resources addressing the emotional needs of gifted children
The Emotional Needs of the Gifted Child
10 Social & Emotional Needs of the Gifted
Social and Emotional Issues of Gifted Children
Social/Emotional Aspects of Giftedness
Nurturing Social-Emotional Development of Gifted Children