Family relationships: gifted and talented children
Your family is the safe place where your gifted and talented child is accepted, loved and valued for who they are. The thing your child most needs to grow up happy and healthy is your family’s love and support.
Your family is also the place where your child learns to accept and value others for who they are too. Although there might be a difference between what your gifted 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 their 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.
Family routines and rules: gifted and talented children
Family routines and rules are good for family relationships. They help everyone in the family feel safe, secure, valued and like they belong.
- Family routines help you make time for all family members and their interests. For example, you might have a weekly kickabout at the park when you pick up your child from school on your day off.
- Family rules help you make it clear how you all want and expect to be treated. For example, ‘Ask and get permission before you borrow someone else’s things’.
But it might sometimes be hard to get your child to follow routines, and they 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 they’re highly focused on something else. Or your child might come up with a lot of very good reasons why having dinner doesn’t suit them right now.
Your child might question family rules and try to change them. For example, when you ask your child to clean their teeth, they might say, ‘Why is fluoride good for us? How do you know?’
When it comes to family values, your gifted child might have more confronting questions and opinions than other same-age children. For example, ‘Why do we pray?’, ‘Can you prove evolution?’, ‘Why didn’t you and Mum get married?’ 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 handling tough topics with children and difficult conversations with teenagers.
If you’re juggling children’s needs with work, chores and other parts of family life, it’s important to look after yourself with sleep, healthy food, physical activity and time to do things you enjoy. This is good for you, and it also helps you give all your children the support they need.
Positive attention: important for all siblings in families with gifted and talented children
Positive attention helps all your children feel secure and valued.
You might need to put a lot of time and attention into supporting your gifted child’s learning needs or helping them develop their talents – for example, by driving them to music lessons or sports practice. But if your gifted and talented child has siblings, you’ll need to make sure they get your time and attention too.
Here are some ideas for making sure that all your children get the attention they need to develop their interests and strengths:
- Use a schedule or calendar so you can see whether everyone is getting time and support for their interests. For example, this might be taking your gifted child to enrichment classes or helping their sibling with a school project.
- Look at what you can change to make sure that everyone’s needs are being met. For example, your 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.
- Share time as a family in ways that help everyone feel they’re supported and can contribute. For example, you could have a family ritual like a special weekend dinner.
All children can 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.
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 their siblings feel jealous, competitive or less valued. Instead you might say, ‘Lea 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 differently from the way they do.
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 Jakov’s brain learns very quickly. The information in this report will help Mum, me and Jakov’s teachers find the best way for Jakov to learn’.
It’s also important to avoid labelling your gifted child as the ‘clever one’, the ‘artistic one’ or the ‘special one’. Your child’s gifted natural abilities are just one part of them. 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 they’re special only because of their gifts and not because of all their other special and lovable qualities.
Being gifted runs in families. If your gifted child has brothers or sisters, there’s a bigger chance that they might be gifted too. But they might not be gifted in the same way. For example, one gifted child might be advanced in music and their gifted sibling might be passionate about spiritual learning.