A gifted or highly able child at home can bring absolute joy and absolute heart ache. Typically, highly able children achieve well and display skills and talents often well beyond their years. Coupled with success and achievement, however, comes a heightened emotional intensity, a leaning towards perfectionism, occasional underachievement, friendship difficulties, and a will and determination that makes parenting a never-ending challenge.
The emotional intensities experienced by gifted children often cause great pain and distress to the child. Not only is the distress difficult to manage, but the child’s intense reactions are often misunderstood, ridiculed or criticized. Home becomes a haven – one place in which the child is truly understood.
Parenting a highly able child can certainly be a delight. It can also be a source of great anxiety, concern and frustration as parents try to meet the many and varying needs of their child – providing stimulating and enriching experiences, yet also encouraging the child to relax, play, and enjoy just being a child. Acting as an advocate for children is vital, but also potentially ostracizing. Parents are required to be understanding and sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of their child, and to be there to cushion their falls. They are also required to play the typical ‘parent’ role, encouraging appropriate, acceptable and respectful behaviour, and enforcing age-appropriate or developmentally-appropriate expectations and boundaries. Parents will be challenged, stretched to the limits, questioned and criticized in their endeavour to provide a loving, secure, stimulating and nurturing home environment for their child.