Emotions and emotional development: gifted and talented children
If your child is gifted and talented, you might notice that they have very strong emotions, interests and opinions compared with other children their age. Sometimes gifted and talented children have trouble managing these strong feelings.
For example, a young gifted child might be very upset when their drawing isn’t as ‘good as the one in the book’. A school-age child might worry more than others about friendship troubles or not always getting things ‘right’ in class. Older children might feel anxious about not being able to fix climate change. Or they might be extremely excited about a work of art and not understand why others don’t feel the same way.
Strategies for handling strong feelings in gifted and talented children
Good communication is one of the keys to supporting your gifted child’s emotional development.
It’s all about talking, listening and responding in a sensitive way, even when your child’s feelings seem out of proportion to what has happened. Talking and listening gives your child time to think through their feelings and gives you the chance to really understand those feelings.
It’s good to help children learn to understand and manage their emotions by naming feelings and suggesting ways to manage them. For example, ‘It sounds like you feel frustrated about your drawing. Why don’t you have some quiet time with your favourite book? You could work on your drawing again later’.
If your child is older, active listening and problem-solving can help you and your child work through the ups and downs of adolescence.
If your child needs help to calm down from strong emotions, you can try these steps: notice the emotion, name it and pause. Problem-solve afterwards. You can also read more about helping your child calm down and helping your teenager calm down.
Social development and skills: gifted and talented children
Gifted children can think faster and/or more deeply than other children their age. So they’re often good at imagining what it’s like to be in somebody else’s situation.
Sometimes these qualities mean your gifted and talented child gets along well with others. Other times, it might seem like your child doesn’t quite fit in with children their own age.
Also, you might have noticed that your gifted child prefers to play or be with older children. This is because your child is thinking and feeling at a similar level to older children.
Strategies for helping gifted and talented children get along with others
Like any child, your gifted child will sometimes need your help to learn about getting along well with others.
A great starting point for getting along with people is understanding that different people have different strengths. You can help your child learn this as part of your everyday family life. For example, if your child has siblings, they’ll learn that other people have different talents and interests.
You can also give your child opportunities to build and practise social skills through:
- playgroups – for younger children
- interest-based groups for older children and teenagers – for example, youth band, drama class, chess club, Scouts or Girl Guides groups
- groups and programs for gifted and talented children.
Behaviour: gifted and talented children
Like all children, gifted and talented children can behave in challenging ways sometimes. But their challenging behaviour can happen for particular reasons. For example, it can happen because they:
- are quick to question family rules and routines
- are easily frustrated
- need challenging learning opportunities.
Strategies for managing family rules and routines
Your gifted child probably has an excellent memory, so they’re likely to remember rules and routines well.
But it might be hard to get your child to follow your family rules and routines. For example, your child might not want to turn out the light if they’re reading a book they’re really interested in. Or your child might come up with some very good reasons why reading is more important than going to sleep!
It can help to be firm about your general expectations – for example, turning the light out by 9 pm on weeknights. But being ready to negotiate about little things is a good idea. For example, if your child wants to read past lights-out time, you could let them use a mindfulness app instead.
If your child has siblings, rules that say how your family looks after and treat its members can help them get along – for example, ‘Knock and get permission before going into each other’s rooms’.
Strategies for handling frustration
Gifted children often set very high standards for themselves and get frustrated when they can’t meet them. This can sometimes result in tantrums and other difficult behaviour.
It’s great for your child to work towards high standards. But your child needs to understand that they can’t have high standards for everything. It’s OK to make mistakes because mistakes help us learn what to do differently next time. Self-compassion is all about treating yourself kindly when things don’t go well. You can read more about self-compassion for children and self-compassion for teenagers.
Strategies for finding the right learning opportunities
When gifted and talented children aren’t given enough opportunities to learn outside home, they might:
- not engage with activities or other children at child care or school
- seem fine at child care or school, but have tantrums or seem upset and withdrawn after coming home
- distract classmates at school or stare out the window instead of doing the classwork.
If this sounds like your child, first talk with your child about what’s happening at school or child care. Listen for any clues that they need new learning opportunities or other support. For example, your child might say something like, ‘I already know the work, but my teacher keeps giving me the same thing’ or ‘The other children won’t let me join in the game because I’m a lot better than they are’.
Next, talk with your child’s teachers and educators about your child’s worries, behaviour or learning needs. If you can work with your child’s educators to support your child’s needs, your child will probably be more interested in their learning.
Get more ideas for encouraging good behaviour in children and good behaviour in teenagers.