Reducing Stress for the Gifted Adolescent
How can parents, teachers, and counselors reduce this stress? Help is on the way. Here's what you can do:
Gifted students are, after all, only kids, too. The concerned parent needs to help him/her accept and cope with their needs all along the way. Help the child understand and identify with other kids and yet be aware that they are "different." Help them accept their talents AND their limitations. Help them develop strong social skills. Help them feel accepted and understood by others. Help them draw the oh-so-fine line between excellence and perfection.
As a teacher or parent, try not to set impossible goals. Reward effort, recognize improvement. Don't be unrealistic. Realize giftedness allows people to learn and use information in unusual ways; allow and encourage creativity. Tell them it's okay to think differently.
Develop the whole person. Your GT student won't wake up one day "not gifted." Though their learning style may be special, they are still emotional beings with vivid likes, dislikes, and personalities. They don't owe the world nor does the world owe them. Its up to them to make some personal meaning out of life.
Be patient. Don't compare. Let your student evolve at his own pace. Help them develop patience, too.
Be accepting and encouraging. Have students work purposefully, thoughtfully, thoroughly. They do not have to excel at everything -- priorities can be set. Know when enough is enough -- do what's appropriate for the situation. Show love regardless of the outcome. Accept and reward effort and process. Everyone needs to be cherished and to love himself, even if he doesn't "win" or take first place.
Flexibility is important. Gifted students have no problem with asking "Why?" or "How come?" but they should be encouraged to seek creative solutions to rules they don't like or can't live with. No one likes a "wise guy," so students should work out acceptable ways for making and changing the rules and act accordingly.
Following the rules doesn't always mean conforming. If you feel your student's ability level is mismatched to a school program, by all means speak up on her behalf; your student need not accommodate. But giftedness is no excuse for rudeness. Let the scene play out so your child can learn empathy, teamwork, and tolerance.
Know when to let your kid alone. It's great to be supportive and encouraging but stand back and gain perspective on their successes and achievements. Have your student work to please himself not you or some teacher. Have him/her savor the moment as a personal satisfaction.
Be available for guidance and advice. Many gifted kids seem very mature and talk a good line but never forget they are still kids and need limits, values, guidelines. Most haven't lived long enough to have wisdom about making decisions and need someone with whom they can delineate the pro's and con's of anything from birth control to college admissions. Knowing they can be independent yet still feel comfortable gathering information and playing it off someone will go a long way in reducing stress. Don't be afraid to state your feelings either. Gifted students, although bright, aren't mind readers. They have the facts, and lots of them, but need the accumulated wisdom and loving guidance of parents who care.
Source: Adapted from"Helping Gifted Students with Stress Management" by Leslie S. Kaplan, 1990, ERIC EC Digest #E488, The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education (ERIC EC).