The Many Sides of Being Gifted
The Other Side of Giftedness
Life's not always a bowl of cherries for those golden, "gifted," young teens. Many are beset with problems ranging from overcompetitiveness to difficulty in getting and keeping friends. Tremendous pressures and the usual developmental issues combine to leave many young gifted teens adrift in a sea of changes and choices. Once parents and teachers become aware of this side of "giftedness," they can support their gifted teens and help them to cope. Let's take a look at some of the obstacles these teens face and some of the ways they handle them.
Your gifted child may realize that she has been "blessed," but at the same time may be suffering from the "imposter" syndrome -- "Am I really that good?" crops up as a constant refrain. Some gifted kids deny their talents, burying them under a guise of "goof" or "know-it-all"; many of these kids have trouble with self-acceptance.
Some young gifted people feel an overwhelming and constant need to give back, because so much has been given to them.
Talented adolescents will tell you they are perfectionists. Standards are set so high (by themselves, usually) that abilities may not match, so the gap between what's expected (perfection) and what really happens (reality) causes a dissonance that teens just can't reconcile.
When the gifted child was young, she didn't think twice about taking risks. This ability diminishes with age, perhaps because she becomes more aware of the consequences. Her responses become measured and weighed and the need to maintain control becomes paramount.
Many gifted kids experience the "push-pull" of what they want and what others want of them. They are keenly aware of not wanting to fall short of the expectations of others, yet this gives them precious little time to pole-vault into their own "field of dreams." They believe they have to prove themselves again and again -- there's no slacking off.
Like most young teens, gifted students are impatient -- they hope to find the easy or cleancut answer to questions; they have little tolerance for the "gray area," and they dislike living with ambiguity. Some are naturally impulsive, yet this can work against them, making them seem immature at times. Most need to learn that investing time, whether it is in friendships, schoolwork, outside commitments, or relationships, is truly of the essence.
Looking at all the issues imploding around these gifted kids, it's not surprising that many catapult into premature adulthood, choosing paths or careers that short-circuit the usual identity crises and lead to dissatisfaction or frustration later on down the long road of life.
Ways that Gifted Kids Cope
So, you think life in the "brain lane" is fun? Not always. Here's how some kids cope.
- Pretend not to know as much as you do
- Act like a brain so people will leave them alone
- Disguise their abilities
- Avoid gifted/talented programs altogether
- Take part in community events
- Use their talents in places other than school
- Excel at school but not in academics
- Spend more time with adults
- Join only gifted/talented programs
- Select their own group of (gifted/talented) friends
- Accept and share their talents to help their peers
As they grow older, students taking part in gifted programs are less likely to hide their abilities.
Source: Adapted from Helping Adolescents Adjust to Giftedness by Thomas M. Buescher and Sharon Higham, ERIC EC Digest #E489, The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education (ERIC EC).