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

Our Story; deep-diving into gifted

Our Story; deep-diving into gifted

As I walked past the couch, I watched my son and, in that moment, realised I had not seen him laugh in weeks. He barely smiled. The joy had been sucked from him.

I realised he was depressed. Depressed. And it was like a punch to the stomach. I stopped and just stood looking at him.

He paused his reading and looked at me. He was five years old.

My head started swimming as I madly recalled the past few weeks trying to remember a smile or laugh but I couldn’t, not one. It had been a tough few months and the intensity hit me in that moment.

I sat on the couch next to him and gave him a hug and held him while he continued to read.

He had been devouring books, consuming them like kids eating lollies at a party. Getting home from school and spending four hours reading, consuming.

Except it was Physics for People in a Hurry, The Universe, How to Teach Your Child Maths.

He was five and a half, he couldn’t read before he started reception six months earlier, but he’d rapidly progressed from readers to become an independent reader in a little over seven months.

I didn’t realise how quickly he was learning; he’d bring books home and we’d sit down, and he’d read them, they were written on a list which had numbers next to it. I didn’t think much about those numbers until I over-heard one mum in the playground talking to another mum.

She said by the end of reception they liked the kids to reach level 12.

I thought to myself, that’s interesting. Realising my son was already at level 18 and it was not yet the end of second term. But no one mentioned anything, eventually a teacher said they were struggling to find appropriate books for him. But no one said anything about that or what that might mean.

We’d been a part of that school community for four years already as he’d started in their toddler class, moved up through preschool before starting reception. No one ever mentioned he might be a bit different. Once a teacher said, ‘he’s a bright spark, isn’t he?

But that was it.

He was our first child, so, yeah, I thought he was bright but don’t all parents think their kids are bright?

None of it matters as long as they are happy, getting what they need but when they don’t, things go down hill quickly. His behaviour changed drastically. He had been utterly delightful his whole life, utterly delightful, no two words could describe this child better.

Yet he shifted to frustrated, angry, short tempered, lashing out at siblings, sad, without joy, very very quickly.

It broke my heart.

I didn’t know what to do, my husband and I were blindsided until a friend, who was also a UK-trained teacher said, ‘you know he’s gifted, right?

Huh?

She sent me a link to a list of characteristics.

I had to concede he ticked most of the boxes, it seemed a bit surreal, I didn’t know what gifted was but it led us, out of sheer desperation, to get an educational assessment.

We’d been struggling to communicate with the school, and we thought it might help.

You take your child in to see the psychologist first to do the test, I know now it can be done over one or two sessions and then you go in alone and see the psychologist to talk about the results.

My husband and I sat there expecting to be told he was quite bright, because we thought he was bright. Nothing could have prepared us for, ‘in twenty years I’ve only seen two or three children like your son’.

Apparently, it’s unusual to test so highly in so many areas.

 We just sat trying to grapple with what that meant, it was surreal and we did that thing where you laugh but it’s slightly manic/hysterical.

On the drive home there was more manic/hysterical laughter and tears. Tears of overwhelm.

What did this mean for our son?!

We were lucky, so incredibly lucky, that thirty minutes’ drive away a school had opened the year before. A school for gifted kids.

We did take the report back to his current school. They refused to accelerate him or extend him. It was a traumatic series of conversations to be honest. They said they were concerned for his emotional and social well-being. Despite the fact that he was depressed and angry. Despite the fact that he had friends in those classes.

They said his handwriting was only age appropriate and even though nothing else about him was age appropriate they refused a six month acceleration. We banged our head on the wall for as long as we could and then called the gifted school for an interview.

I felt utterly let down by the school we’d been a part of for over four years.

We were lucky though. He got a place quickly and started at the gifted school the next term. He’d just turned six when he started at his new school.

About Tuesday of his second week we were standing in the kitchen laughing about something and I suddenly realised he was laughing! When I thought about it I realised he’d been happy. I tried to pin point when the change occurred and the best I could do was towards the end of the previous week.

He’d been at his school for less than a week and his mood shifted dramatically, we had our delightful boy back!

That has been absolutely priceless to us.

It’s not been all smooth sailing, he’s highly sensitive, and highly attuned so anxiety has been a challenge, but we have support that has made a huge difference.

When I talk to other parents, I hear many similar stories. Struggle at school, not fitting in, mental health issues, and it takes me back to that moment in the lounge room realising my boy was depressed. So, I created Our Gifted Kids.

We now know, we have three gifted kids, and this has been a brief story about our eldest but the other two are having their own unique journey’s as well.

They all express giftedness differently.

I have asked parents to share their stories as well because I think other parents need to see them, to know that they aren’t alone when they recognise themselves in our stories. Also, so that teachers and policy makers can see the impact of a system that doesn’t allow all children to thrive.

We can do better.

If you’d like to share your story, get in touch.

If you’d like to talk about work you do with gifted kids, get in touch.

If you need more info on What Gifted Is? Check out our podcast!

 

 

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.