Family relationships: gifted and talented children

Your gifted and talented child has special abilities in certain areas. But sometimes she might feel a bit different from other children the same age. She might even have trouble relating to them.

Your family is really important because it’s the safe place where your child is accepted, loved and valued for who he is. The thing your child most needs to grow up happy and healthy is your family’s love and support.

But your child needs to accept and value others for who they are too.

Although there’s a difference between what your child can do and what other family members can do, you all have your own strengths. You can help your child recognise these by pointing them out. For example, your child’s sister might be good at martial arts and her brother might be a great gardener.

Accepting and valuing differences in people can make it easier for your child to get along with people outside the family too.

When you celebrate everyone’s strengths, it helps everyone in the family to feel good. And when your children feel that you love and value them equally, they won’t feel they have to compete for your affection and attention. This can help prevent sibling conflict and fighting.

Siblings of gifted and talented children

You might need to put a lot of time and attention into supporting your gifted child’s learning needs or helping him develop his talents – for example, by driving him to music lessons or sports practice.

But as part of helping all your children feel valued, you’ll need to make sure they all get your time and attention. For example, you could make a point of helping siblings with their next school project.

It’s also important to balance family life so that everyone has a chance to follow their interests. Sometimes you might need to juggle things to make sure that everyone’s needs are being met. For example, your gifted son’s music lesson might be at the same time as your daughter’s soccer practice. Maybe the music lesson can move to another time, or perhaps your daughter could go to practice with a friend.

It can be hard to juggle children’s needs with work, chores and others parts of family life. But it’s still important to look after yourself with sleep, healthy food, physical activity and time to do things you enjoy. This helps you be the parent you want to be.

Talking with siblings about being gifted and talented

It’s important to choose your words carefully when talking with your other children about your gifted and talented child.

Sometimes even using the word ‘gifted’ when talking about your gifted child’s natural abilities might make her siblings jealous or competitive. Instead you might say, ‘Tom has the kind of brain that likes to be challenged by learning a lot of new things.’

And if your gifted child has just been identified, you don’t need to make a special announcement. Your other children probably know that their brother or sister learns quickly.

If your other children have questions or you want to give them some information, keep it simple and to the point. For example, ‘The tests showed that Stephanie’s brain learns very quickly. The information in this report will help Dad, me and Stephanie’s teachers find the best way for her to learn’.

It’s also important to avoid labelling your gifted child as the ‘clever one’, the ‘brainy one’ or the ‘special one’. His gifted natural abilities are just one part of him. Labels like this might make your other children feel they’re less special than your gifted child. And they might also make your gifted child feel he’s special only because of his gifts and not because of all his other special and lovable qualities.

Your other children might act out and behave in challenging ways if they don’t feel supported and valued. You can encourage good behaviour in children and good behaviour in teenagers by taking the time to listen to your other children’s feelings.

Family routines and rules: gifted and talented children

If you have a gifted and talented child, your child needs the security of your family’s routines and rules as much as any other child. Your routines and rules give your child a sense of consistency and security. They help her to feel she belongs, and they teach her important things, like family values and life skills.

Your gifted child probably has an excellent memory, so he’s likely to remember family rules and routines well. But it might be hard to get him to follow routines, and he might have a lot of questions about rules.

For example, it might be hard to get your child to come to the table for dinner if she’s highly focused on something else. Or your child might come up with lots of very good reasons why having dinner doesn’t suit her right now.

Your child might question family rules and try to change them to suit himself. For example, when you ask your child to clean his teeth, he might say, ‘Why is fluoride good for us? How do you know?’

When it comes to family values, your child might have questions and opinions too. For example, ‘Why do we pray?’, ‘What is evolution?’, ‘Why didn’t you and Mum get married?’, ‘Why did you change your name when you got married?’, ‘Why do you help out in the school canteen?’ and so on.

As the parent of a gifted and talented child, you might need to be prepared to explain, discuss and negotiate your family routines and family rules. And planning ahead can help when it comes to conversations about tough topics and difficult conversations, especially with teenagers.