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Adjusting for Giftedness

Life's not always a bowl of cherries for those golden, "gifted," young people between the ages of 11 and 15. Many are beset with problems ranging from overcompetitiveness to difficulty in getting and keeping friends. They have tremendous pressures. These 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.

Challenges

Esteem issues

The gifted youth realizes he/she has been "blessed" yet suffers from the "imposter" syndrome ("Am I really that good?" crops up as a constant mantra). Some deny their talents burying them under a guise of "goof" or "know-it-all"; many of these kids have trouble with self-acceptance.

"Giving" issues

Some young gifted people feel an overwhelming and constant need to give back, because so much has been given to them.

Perfection issues

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.

Control issues

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.

Expectation issues

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.

Impatience issues

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.

Identity issues

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. How Kids Survive the Brain Lane

So, you think life in the "brain lane" is fun? Not always. Here's how some kids cope.

  1. Pretend not to know as much as you do
  2. Act like a brain so people will leave you alone
  3. Disguise your abilities
  4. Avoid gifted/talented programs altogether
  5. Take part in community events
  6. Give play to your talents away from school
  7. Excel at school apart from academics
  8. Spend more time with adults
  9. Join only gifted/talented programs
  10. Select your own group of (gifted/talented) friends
  11. Accept and share your talents to help your 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, 1990, ERIC EC Digest #E489, The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education (ERIC EC).

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