This week is National Parenting Gifted Children Week sponsored by SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted). Families of gifted children often deal with special needs related to social and emotional development. So how do you, the educator, help families celebrate the joys and challenges of raising a bright young mind?
Find the right time and place to listen to parents’ concerns and questions. Don’t jump in right away with suggestions and resources. Try to get to the heart of what parents most fear and most hope for their children. Keep in mind that many parents of exceptionally bright children were once exceptionally bright children themselves. Their parenting may be influenced by their own positive and negative experiences as children.
Ask what they need
Don’t assume that parents are looking for something specific, such as a referral for screening and evaluation services. Ask parents what they need and how you can help. Then listen to their answers.
Help parents recognize their child’s cues
Sometimes when parents are struggling to understand or communicate with their child, they just need a gentle reminder to slow down and watch or listen, in order to recognize their child’s cues and needs. Model this for parents in the ways you interact with children in the classroom and in the ways you interact with their child when the family is together. Informal family events like picnics and potluck dinners are great times to have these kinds of interactions.
Offer reassurance and affirmation
Parents of exceptionally bright children are usually looking for two seemingly contradictory things: they want reassurance that their child is perfectly normal, and they want recognition that their child is special. You can certainly give them both of these things. Children who are exceptionally bright are perfectly “normal” children. They need their parents’ love and acceptance, the friendship and companionship of other children, and the guidance and support of their teachers and other adults in their lives. They need all of these things just as deeply as any other child. They are also special. They have the gift of being able to see and understand the world in a way that is different from that of many other children. Your job is to help parents keep these two realities in harmonious balance as you work with them to lay a foundation for a lifetime of joyous learning.
The above excerpt is from Challenging Exceptionally Bright Children in Early Childhood Classrooms by Ann Gadzikowski. The book also includes a wealth of information on assessing and identifying gifted children, adapting curriculum to meet their needs, classroom strategies for several topics children often excel at, and resources for further assistance.