Emotions and emotional development: gifted and talented children

If your child is gifted and talented, you might notice that she has very strong emotions, interests and opinions compared with other children her age. Sometimes gifted and talented children have trouble managing these strong feelings.

For example, a young gifted child might be very upset when his 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.

This is all normal for gifted and talented children.

Strategies for handling strong feelings in gifted and talented children
Good communication is the key to supporting your gifted child’s emotional development and helping your child learn to manage emotions.

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 her feelings and gives you the chance to really understand those feelings.

It’s good to help young children learn to self-regulate 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 in your special chair with your favourite book?’

If your child is older, active listening and problem-solving can help you and your child work through the ups and downs of adolescence.

Social development and skills: gifted and talented children

Gifted children can think faster and 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 his own age.

Also, you might have noticed that your gifted child prefers to play or be with older children – brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbours. This is normal too. It’s 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.

You can also give your child opportunities to build and practise social skills through:

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
  • get frustrated
  • lack learning opportunities.

Strategies for managing family rules and routines
Your gifted child probably has an excellent memory, so she’s 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, he might not want to turn out the light if he’s reading a book he’s really interested in. Or he 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, letting your child use a mindfulness app instead of reading sometimes.

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 she can’t have high standards for everything. It’s OK to make mistakes. You can talk with your child about how mistakes help us learn what to do differently next time.

One of the most powerful ways to help your child learn this lesson is to be a role model for him. For example, calmly point out to your child when you make a mistake and show him how you work it out.

Strategies for handling lack of learning opportunities
When gifted and talented children need more learning opportunities outside home, they might:

  • not engage with activities or other children at child care or school
  • have tantrums after coming home from child care or school
  • distract classmates at school or stare out the window instead of doing the classwork
  • seem fine at school, but be very difficult or sad at home.

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 she needs 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 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, these difficulties will probably go away.

Get more ideas for encouraging good behaviour in children and good behaviour in teenagers.