How I learned to chill out as a parent of gifted kids.

How I learned to chill out as a parent of gifted kids.

I often get asked, “what can I teach my child? they learn so quickly, what topics should I be teaching them? they could learn anything and I don’t want to miss anything!”

Gifted kids have an amazing capacity to learn and they love it!

It’s like breathing.

The temptation is to keep pouring facts and figures and information on them because it’s bliss.

I’d say there is a balance between encouraging a love of learning and well-roundedness. Well rounded adults are successful in life and we want to help our kids to grow up into successful, happy and content adults.

How do we do that?

The best advice I ever got from my son’s psychologist was that successful highly gifted children are ones that had a well-rounded childhood, plenty of ‘being a kid’ time.

Our gifted kids need to have their educational/cognitive needs met and the right school or educational environment is vital in ensuring this need is met, outside of that, plenty of opportunities to play.

Life skills.

Down time from ingesting information to learn about the world around them.

Our temptation is to fill their heads with facts and figures because they want it and they suck it up but it’s ok if he re-visits the periodic table multiple times in his childhood because each time he is a bit older and he’ll get something else out of it.

The comparison she gave me is that if you had a child who was a great athlete, say a prodigy swimmer or golfer, well you don’t let them play golf 24/7, they still need school and friends and other activities in their life to become well-rounded.

She said, individuals who were child prodigies often aren’t successful in their field as adults because they’ve not had the opportunity to learn about life skills if they solely focused on that obsession during childhood. The successful ones had the opportunity to become well-rounded individuals.

The same is with these intense gifted kids, yeah they would sit and read and learn all day (that’s my son!) because it’s like breathing to them.

But they need to put down the book and go play or go to Scouts and it’s ok if he reads the same book at 5 that he then reads again at 7 and 9 because he will see something different in it each time.

As a parent, it is overwhelming to have the responsibility of someone who has so much potential, someone who is years beyond their peers in their area of interest, or an amazing capacity to learn.

We want to do the right thing.

It’s also hard to restrain yourself as a parent when you know they would be good at music, good at dancing, good at… well just about anything and everything they try, so shouldn’t they do it all?!

We have to help them find the balance.

I think it starts with getting permission to chill out. Not just our kids, us too!

We need to take the pressure off and know that it will be ok, our kids can be kids and they will be better for it and as a parent, I can feel less pressure to have to fill that insatiable brain.

Drop into our Facebook group to talk about this more..

How I shed the shame about having gifted kids.

How I shed the shame about having gifted kids.

Are your kids gifted?

Do you find yourself in awkward conversations where you just don’t want to admit it?

Well, you’re not alone.

It’s not an easy conversation because there is a real taboo about having gifted kids.

All children are without a doubt, a gift but not all kids are gifted.

The taboo I feel is that somehow by saying that my child is gifted, it devalues someone else’s child who is not gifted; that comes from a misunderstanding about what giftedness is.

Giftedness is being neurologically different and experiencing the world in a different more intense way, with many challenges, and yes this typically means learning quickly and excelling in some areas. However, everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, whether you are typical or atypical, and it certainly doesn’t make us more or less than someone else.

By not talking about it we’re admitting the shame and unfortunately, our kids feel that shame, that’s it’s not ok to be gifted, we shouldn’t talk about it, there’s something about me that is not ok to talk about with others. ☹

The problem is that we are putting other people’s discomfort over being proud and confident about our kids and openly accepting of who they are.

And don’t get me wrong, our discomfort in having those conversations as well!

But what message is that sending to our kids?

So what can you say in those awkward moments?

Over the last year I’ve had to fess up to having gifted kids many times throughout the journey of building Our Gifted Kids, and believe me, I wasn’t immune to feeling the shame, I just had to do it, I had no other choice. But what I learned was really interesting…

Every time I opened my mouth and said, “Hi, I’m Sophia, I have three gifted kids and I’m creating a support network for parents of gifted kids” (as I sunk into my chair and tried to hide behind someone!!) just about every time there was someone there who said…

“Oh, my grandson’s gifted.” That was at a lunch that my folks had.

“My child is gifted.” That was at a workshop – from the presenter.

“My kids are gifted, they’re grown up now.” That was at a leadership program.

“I recently found this old school report, I think I’m gifted – can we talk?”

Gifted people statistically make up 10% of the population, they are out there, we just don’t talk about it.

And we need to talk about it.

So, try some of these alternatives, put your toes into the water as you build the bravery muscle (took me about a year – now I don’t care what other people think):

My kids are atypical, their strengths are…

My kids are asynchronous, that means in some things they are age appropriate and in others they are not.

My kids are neuro diverse, their brains are wired a bit differently, so they learn quickly in some areas and are age appropriate in others.

My kids are gifted, which means their brains are wired differently, gifted kids often learn really quickly but also process the world quickly, so they can get overwhelmed by their senses and emotions. My kids love… and we work on…

My kids are not typical, they are gifted, which probably makes you think of Sheldon Cooper or Dougie Howser but that’s a stereotype, in reality, their brains are wired differently so they process the world faster, this can mean they learn quickly but also can get overwhelmed by emotions and senses.

Or just… My kids are gifted. (We’re not always responsible for educating the world, let them think what they want to think).

The trick is doing it in a way that builds your child up and doesn’t tear them down, we often end with… “but they’re really crap at…” and inserting whatever their weaknesses are because of the taboo about their strengths. 

It can be hard to feel like you don’t need to do that. The misunderstanding is that gifted kids don’t have weaknesses and us parents know they do!

I balance the need to educate people that gifted kids have weaknesses with not tearing my children down in the eyes of others by being generic, “we all have strengths and weaknesses, my kids are no exception to that.” 

You got this!

Share your experiences in our Facebook Group, we’d love to hear them!

Sophia x

A walk in the park

A walk in the park

Routines are important, but recently our family routines have been steadily becoming more screen focused and less adventurous. 

My wife and I realised we were getting lazy and leaving the kids to literally their own devices while we slept in on the weekend. So to try and break the rut we discussed as a family what we wanted to get out of our weekends. 

Our children, unsurprisingly, were just fine with the usual status quo of watching TV and playing computer games and it took some time to persuade them that every Sunday, we should get up, get dressed, eat breakfast in the car and get out for a walk in the forest.

This went well the first Sunday when things were all novel. 

As the kids ran around we breathed in the fresh air and admired how brilliant we were as parents. Look at our amazing three kids out poking mushrooms and running around with sticks I thought. 

Mentally I began to make plans for a new shelf on which I could place all my future ‘best father’ awards. We smugly and happily greeted our fellow forest walkers with the glee of a perfect family trying something new and thinking it would be like this every week.

The second weekend was a bit more work. 

We got to the forest, we walked, we oohed and ahhed at the amazing mushrooms, admired the sounds of the birds and soaked in the serenity but the shine seemed to wear off with every step we took. 

The new toy wasn’t as good as it used to be. 

After a long walk it was a long trek back to the car with a sleepy child on my back and the others dragging their feet in boredom. It seems we had the right activity, just making the kids walk more than a few kilometres wasn’t going down well.

For our third trip, we mixed it up a bit and tried a new spot and let the kids take the lead. If they wanted to run off and get the distance in, we would follow. If they wanted to stop and poke around a bush for half an hour, we followed and when they were close to expiring we went back to the car. Lowering our expectations around what a ‘walk in the forest’ was helped us all have a great time as a family.

Then after some bad weather and a few family colds we suddenly hadn’t been outside in a few weeks to our usual spots and the kids started pestering us to get out. Suddenly they were the ones driving the activity.

“When are we going for a walk in the forest?” they asked. 

Well, needless to say we returned to the forest the next weekend and discovered all sorts of amazing things: cubby houses made of fallen branches, a geocache tub and enough animal bones that I started to look over my shoulder now and then. Ah, the joys of nature.

It isn’t easy to break out of a rut and not everything we have tried has worked, but getting up on a Sunday is a great way to break up the weekend and is something we are starting to cherish as a family. The only costs involved are transport and snacks, a small price to pay for the kids to enjoy some unstructured play in the beauty of nature. 

We started with a google search of the surrounding area and made a list of playgrounds and national parks within a 45 minute drive. We then had a look at some of those on google maps to see if there were any off the beaten track paths that might be a bit different and checked them out too. 

We don’t set the alarm on a Sunday, we get up when we feel like it, get dressed then straight out the door into the car. We often have breakfast on the run and it just adds to the adventure. Everyone in the family enjoys the new status quo, even our dog who enjoys the break from running around the same yard all day, a lot like the kids really.

Some ideas to get you started, check out:
National park

Beaches

Walking trails

Geographic areas of interest

Seasonal activities like flower blooms

Love Lost In Translation

Love Lost In Translation

One morning I woke up to the sound of crying outside my bedroom door. It was my seven year old. He was on his way to the bathroom when his legs ‘stopped working’ and he collapsed on my dusty treadmill having a little cry. He is a super sensitive little boy and occasionally dramatic (mommy! my legs won’t work!) and the past few months he’s had lots of tummy aches, been clingy at school drop off and really not coping when friends or family leave the house. It breaks my heart and we’ve tried all sorts of things trying to figure out what is going on.

Was it something at school? Was he not getting enough mental stimulation? Was he not getting enough time with us? We have three kids; we’re outnumbered and it’s something we’re really conscious about but we spend a lot of time with him. It had me stumped. I picked him up and put him in our bed and started asking gentle questions about how he was feeling.

As he talked, the penny dropped. I had read a book recently, Out of Control by Dr Shefali Tsabary, and she talks about dysfunctional behaviour always being a sign that the child has lost touch with who they are (p158) and that as parents we do a lot ‘because it’s good for them’ or ‘because they need it’ or ‘because we love them’ but it doesn’t matter our motivation, if the child doesn’t feel loved, if we’re not connecting and the child is instead feeling the weight of our expectations then we need to revisit what we are doing. In other words, just because we spend a lot of time with our children doesn’t mean that is also their perception. We’d been speaking the wrong love language.

We spend a lot of time with him. He’s always loved having a house full of family and friends hanging out. I remember his second New Year ’s Eve. He went around the house pulling all the grown-ups into the lounge to dance. He wanted everyone together in the moment and he’s always been like that. When you’re constantly thinking about making lunches, the laundry or what you’re cooking for dinner it’s easy to forget to be in the moment with your children. We are conscious of trying to ensure our children’s demands for learning and interests are met but that all chews up time which means we don’t often just sit down and connect.

My husband and I spent a lot of time with him but I wondered if maybe it was the wrong kind of time. I decided it was time to consult an expert. I got Chapman & Campbell’s book The 5 Love Languages of Children off the shelf and started to browse through the pages. The five love languages are physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts and acts of service. As I read I realised we’d focused too much on acts of service when what he really needed was lots and lots of quality time connecting like hearing stories.

So I’m off to call the family, he’s been desperate to play Subatomic (an atom building board game; can’t wait) and we’ve just not made the time so I think this Sunday will be pizza and atom building! Wish me luck! I think I’m on to something.