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Giftedness. It’s such a loaded (and misunderstood) topic. A term that conjures up thoughts of countless scholarship offers and parents who place their children – and themselves – on pedestals.
Like many kite kids’ parents, I dislike the word “gifted.” I understand how it came about, but there are serious flaws with this term; partly due to an obnoxious minority who use it as a badge of honor. Unfortunately, they’re the ones people notice most.
In addition, it’s sometimes the parents of high achievers who are bragging; not “gifted” kids. (There’s a difference.)
The silent majority
Most families with “gifted” children remain quiet about it. We know if we mention the G word, people will think we’re bragging – even if we’re simply frustrated and want to discuss aspects of it that are anything but what most people consider Facebook-worthy.
Trudging through parenthood this way can make us feel very isolated.
Since learning about my son’s “giftedness,” I’ve tried to tip-toe around – while, at the same time, explain – one challenge or another that he has faced.
I’ve watched some moms’ facial expressions change from empathy to apathy; in other cases, their reactions have looked more like annoyance or disdain. So, I almost always remain quiet.
Which brings me to another shortcoming of the G word. For me, and many other moms, the term ignores how often being “gifted” can feel more like a curse sometimes.
The reality is that giftedness can bring exclusion and, in some cases, bullying. When you don’t know why that’s happening, it makes the problem seem even more daunting and unfixable.
And that can lead to anxiety or depression. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other sources report that kite kids are even more likely to get caught up in “escapes” such as alcohol, drugs and suicide than their peers.
A lot of this comes back to the challenges that uneven development and intensities can bring.
“Advanced asynchronous development is not an advantage in a race toward personal gain,” says Linda Silverman, a licensed psychologist and gifted expert who has studied more than 6,500 children. “There’s no competition here. It does not give the individual an edge in the competition. In fact, the cognitive and personality traits that comprise giftedness are disadvantages in a society in which those differences are not valued.”
Until you walk in someone’s shoes
Prior to learning that my son is the G word, I wouldn’t have suspected any of this. In fact, I would have been rolling my eyes right along with everyone else. However, after watching him struggle socially for so long – and at such a young age – I wholeheartedly believe this now, too.
Being “gifted” brings plenty of challenges; it’s just that the struggles tend to be with social-emotional issues and executive-function deficits rather than areas like STEM or linguistics. And when they do relate to academics, it’s really about emotion. They already know the material and desperately want to learn something new. Some call this intellectual intensity “the rage to learn.”
The saying about how everyone you meet is fighting a battle applies to “gifted” kids, too. It’s simply that society frowns upon parents being vocal about it, especially when the dare to mention the G word.