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Son Not Communicating at Home

Gifted and Talented Expert Advice from Mary Ruth Coleman, Ph.D.

Q: My nine-year-old son is being treated for ADD and has many characteristics of being gifted. He is enjoying his school year and is in class with his best friend (also gifted), with a supportive teacher. However, when he gets home from school, he is very antagonistic toward his younger siblings, will not talk about his day with me, and gets upset if I try to ask him any questions. His homework gets done, but in a careless manner. My husband thinks our son gets frustrated being around younger kids who can't communicate or behave on as high a level as his schoolmates. It could also be his ADD medication is wearing off at that time. Although his mood improves later in the evening, after tae kwon do or his Destination Imagination meetings, he still offers little information about his day. I'm so worried that I can't communicate with my son, and he isn't even near his teenage years yet.

A: I know that you're frustrated, but perhaps we can look at this a little differently. The amount of energy your son expends in school is two to three times that of a typical child. When he gets home, he needs some downtime, when he can regroup and relax. If he also has any verbal or auditory processing problems (not unusual in bright kids with ADD), then he also needs release time from talking and listening! How about making it standard operating procedure that when he gets home he has one to two hours "off" and that in the evening you both share some time reflecting on your day. This time together should be fun, not a "what did you do today?" drill. Your son is more likely to answer specific questions rather than general ones. Perhaps you can collect questions in a jar that you draw out and answer. "My favorite thing that happened today was..." or, "One thing I would have changed about my day is..." This way you both share something and it's not like a quiz time. Hope this helps.-- Mary Ruth Coleman, Ph.D.

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Mary Ruth Coleman is the director of Project U-STARS (Using Science Talent and Abilities to Recognize Students) at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Coleman has taught in both general and gifted educational programs in both public and private schools.

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