Sitting on the right side of the couch, meet Mother Yang: highly intellectual, neat and tidy, everything organized and categorized, runs her home business like clockwork, a bit of a perfectionist, and is never late for an appointment. To the left we have Kid Yin: highly intellectual, shoes kicked off haphazardly on the floor, several piles of comics, books, electronics, and who-knows-what-else scattered throughout the living room, starts but does not finish things, and understands the complexities of time as a continuum, but managing it to catch the morning bus is onerous.
We all want to relate to, support, and nurture our children, no matter how yang they are to our yin. With this in mind, here are four tips for to help organized parents support their scattered gifted children:
Be part of your child feeling comfortable being herself. Children with superior intelligence, despite their intellectual gifts, often feel different and out of place. Their interests, senses of humor, and the vast places their thoughts travel to are frequently unlike at least 95% of their peers. This leads to many gifted kids being extremely self-conscious, often wishing they could be more “normal” like the other kids. Parents can alleviate such insecurity and breed confidence by acknowledging but also praising differences. For instance, your gifted child may be less of a “concrete thinker” than her parents, but her creativity and ability to think “outside of the box” can (and should!) be celebrated.
Help your child with organization, but avoid over-organizing. When having your child locate a homework assignment in his backpack leads to a heap of crumpled, wrinkly papers (and other childhood debris), it is natural for the tidy parent to snap into action to keep things in order. But what may come naturally to you may be a significant challenge to your gifted child. It makes sense in your mind to have a folder for every subject and a well categorized planner to keep assignments in line. To your child, this may feel impossible or inconsequential or both. A happy medium to avoid over-organizing is having your child keep two folders: one for homework, one for classwork. A simple notebook or calendar to write down assignments will help as well.
Follow your child’s lead and expand on his interests. You love taking family bike rides. He would rather build inside with Lego (a nod to Lego enthusiasts: I’ve heard you loud and clear. No “s” on the end of Lego!). You like Civil War history, but he is delving deep into the differences between various whale species. Your into family TV sitcoms, but he can’t get enough of Dr. Who. Making a conscious effort to show interest in topics that are important to your child, even if that means faking it, is an excellent way to validate how important he is to you. Sit down and let him educate you on a science topic he is becoming fascinated with. Schedule family field trips to museums, science centers, parks, or conventions to share in authentic experiences. Your child will feel important, and your bond will be made stronger despite your differences.
Advocate for your gifted child. Some people will not “get” your child. Many assume “gifted” means “perfect.” Or at least easy to teach at school and raise at home. So when (euphemism alert) misguided folks experience your gifted kid who can’t ever seem to remember to bring his lunchbox or homework to school, spaces out, and isn’t the most mature student out at the playground, you can be a great advocate not just for your child, but for the gifted community. Letting teachers and other parents know that high intelligence often comes with its own challenges will be eye opening to many. Share his challenges with teachers, what has and has not worked in the past, and what your goals are moving forward to help foster a strong parent-school relationship that will help ensure that your child’s teacher really “gets” him.
While you and your gifted child may be complete opposites, keep in mind that yin and yang represent two forces that despite their contrasts, are perfectly complimentary. It’s not easy, but as a caring parent, you will guide you and your child to a place of harmony and balance… that might be a little cluttered.