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Gifted and Distracted
Q: My 14-year-old says he is tired of people telling him how bright he is. He minimizes the importance of his grades and will not accept help from me with his homework. He says he doesn't want to get involved in school, but he's ecstatic when he gets picked to do things, although this doesn't happen very often. Activities close to home are very limited, and ones farther away are hard, what with access and my work schedule. He is one of those distracted gifted students, and I am trying really hard to meet his needs at home. Any suggestions?
A: At this age, students are often less interested in trying hard for good grades and showing publicly what they know. A gifted teen needs some real experience to make the connection between school and the positive end-result in the future. You said that he likes to get picked to do things in school. Good! In some way, he's still interested. Does the school offer some activities that might interest him: a newspaper, jazz band, chess club, academic quiz team, etc? Approach the club sponsor and see if he can be included. Of course, this must look as if you had nothing to do with it. Let this teacher know how he can make a real difference in the life of this young man by acting as a mentor, and help him to become interested in participating. Often these activities will include other good students and will give your son a crowd where it's okay to be smart.
I really do understand parent work schedules and access issues, but in the teen years, the activities that will hold his interest are usually ones away from home, with other -- hopefully positive -- peers. Car-pooling, public buses, bicycling, etc., become the necessary way to manage.
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Noreen Joslyn is a licensed independent social worker in the state of Ohio and is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. She has a master's degree in Social Work, specializing in family and children, from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a psychiatric social worker in private practice with Ken DeLuca, Ph.D. & Associates, where she counsels parents and children.