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Grandparent Wants to Help Gifted Grandchild
Q: My 10-year-old grandson has been identified as gifted by his teacher. He goes to special classes and receives extra challenges in school, but I want to help him, too. What are some ways that a grandparent can help a gifted grandchild?
A: As a grandparent you can assume some wonderfully unique and significant roles in your grandchild's life. Here are just a few:
1. You can be a role model.
Gifted children -- with their intense idealism and sense of values -- need models for what they will and can become. How children develop physically, psychologically, creatively, and spiritually depends largely on their perceptions of themselves in the future. The image of the grandparent often represents to the child the end-product of growing up. A focused role for the future, marked by the explicit modeling of family values and standards, is therefore one of the more significant contributions you can make to your grandchild's development.
2. You can be a magician.
Because grandparents are usually one step removed from the immediate family, they have an aura of mystery about them. They tend to be more relaxed about rules (having been through it all before!) and can be less bound to fixed patterns of doing things. In the company of a grandparent, an imaginative gifted child can be whimsical, creative, and playful without the fear of being confronted with words like "practical" or "realistic." This role can be especially delightful for you because it will bring out the child that you once were yourself!
3. You can be a mentor.
A mentorship is a special relationship in which an older person takes a child under her wing; shares her love and knowledge of a subject; and imparts the attitudes, values, and excitement surrounding the topic. It's easy for grandparents, especially those who are able to spend a lot of time, to be mentors to their grandchildren because they already have the bonding, interest, and experience necessary for the mentorship role. The challenge is in finding an interest that will be rewarding and fun for both of you.
4. You can be an historian.
Because gifted children are curious and seemingly insatiable in their quest for knowledge, they need exposure to many viewpoints and experiences. Grandparents have firsthand information about such fascinating material as what life was like before television, computers, and space exploration. They also can be authorities on family history. This aspect of the historian role is especially important because gifted children often suffer from feelings of being different. A sense of linkage with their own past is one factor that potentially diminishes these feelings of isolation.
5. You can give your grandchild an ear.
No relative or teacher of a gifted child has to be told that such youngsters are highly verbal. Occasionally at school or at home, gifted children are told not to discuss their accomplishments because they might be regarded as insensitive to others. Grandparents can be the perfect antidote to this problem because they generally want to know about their grandchildren's accomplishments and are not likely to be critical or punitive. The simple task of listening and asking questions about school, inventions, friends, and hobbies can be one of the more meaningful ways in which you can nurture a gifted child.
You both have a wonderful opportunity to explore and learn together! Have fun!
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Felice Kaufmann is an independent consultant in gifted child education. Kaufman has been a classroom teacher and counselor of gifted children, grades K-12, and a professor at Auburn University and the Universities of New Orleans and Kentucky, where she created teacher training programs in gifted child education. She has served on the Board of Directors of the National Association for Gifted Children and the Executive Board of the Association of the Gifted.