Top Ten Ways to Nurture Your Gifted Child at Home
By: Patricia Potter, M.Ed., IDS Gifted and Talented Specialist
You’ve begun to notice that your child easily grasps new concepts and ideas and learns things more quickly than other children his or her age. As a parent you want to provide your child with opportunities to develop this gifted potential. Your child needs to know that his or her home environment will be stimulating and supportive. Navigating the myriad of information about raising gifted children in books, magazines and on the Internet can become challenging and time consuming.
Below are the top ten ways to nurture your child’s
gifted abilities and talents at home.
1. Feed your child’s voracious appetite for knowledge.
Make books and magazines in various genres and subjects available. Find family-friendly websites for your child to explore. Be a learner yourself by showing your child that learning is something that doesn’t stop at the end of the school or workday. Read aloud to your child. Not only is it the single most important activity leading to language development, but the nurturing and one-on-one attention given by parents during read aloud time encourages children to form a positive relationship with reading throughout their lives.
2. Use community resources.
Exposing your child to available resources such as museums, aquariums, plays, concerts, library events, and classes for children will help to expand his or her knowledge about areas of interest, and ignite curiosity and excitement.
3. Help your child develop and practice social skills.
Encourage your child to recognize and appreciate other people’s talents and abilities. Some gifted children have difficulty relating with children their own age because of their advanced vocabulary and varied and diverse interests. Talk with your child’s teacher and other parents of gifted children to help foster friendships with other gifted children, and provide opportunities for your child to socialize with older children through programs outside of school.
4. Encourage questioning.
As you’ve probably noticed, gifted children ask a lot of questions. Sometimes their insatiable curiosity can be exhausting. Create a home library of reference materials including a dictionary, a thesaurus, a world almanac, book of world records. Add reference books on topics that interest your child (dinosaurs, planets, etc.). When your child asks a question, you can’t answer, it’s ok to admit it. Then help your child find the answer by visiting the library, searching the Internet, making phone calls, and/or consulting experts on the subject. Be curious yourself. Let your child know when you are learning something new or researching the answer to a question you have.
5. Support your sensitive child.
Gifted children often have more intense feelings than other children their age. They may develop empathy at an early age, quickly pick up on others’ emotions, worry about world issues, be curious about the meaning of life and death, cry, anger, and/or excite easily. It’s important that you acknowledge and respect your child’s feelings, and talk about feelings open and honestly. Share your own feelings when appropriate. Teach your child words to describe his or her feelings. If your child feels deeply about the plight of others in the world, you can take this opportunity to do service as a family by volunteering at a food bank or other organization.
6. Help your perfectionist child.
Perfectionism can be a problem for gifted children. They often feel pressured by teachers, parents, and friends to be “perfect.” Perfectionists often set impossible goals for themselves, aren’t satisfied with their successes, are afraid of making mistakes, and expect too much of themselves. Show your child that you accept him or her “as is.” Keep your expectations realistic and praise your child for taking risks, even if things don’t work out. Give your child permission to make mistakes at home in a safe environment, and praise your child’s efforts as much as you do their finished products. Ask yourself, “Am I enjoying my own achievements or am I too hard on myself?” Share with your child times in your own life where your mistakes led to a learning opportunity.
7. Keep track of your child’s school performance and progress.
Talk to your child on a regular basis about his or her experiences at school. You will be able to pick up on signs of frustration or boredom. Stay in touch with your child’s teacher. Attend parent-teacher conferences, and include your child, when appropriate. Build a respectful relationship with the teacher. Keep a file of test scores, report cards, and work samples that show evidence of your child’s giftedness.
8. Go Outside and Play!
Research has shown that unstructured time outdoors has a multitude of benefits for children. It reduces anxiety, depression, and aggression, increases cooperation, flexibility, and fitness, and allows children to use their imagination. Children are often involved in so many extracurricular activities (soccer practice, dance, music lessons, etc.) they have little or no free time. So, take your child for a nature walk now and then. You’ll enjoy it too!
9. Take care of yourself.
Parenting a gifted child is a wonderful adventure. It’s not always easy. You’ll need your strength, wisdom, and sense of humor in the years ahead. During the journey, take time for yourself. Regularly set aside a half -hour to an hour each day just for you. Take a nap or a bubble bath, read a book or magazine, talk a walk, call a friend, take a fitness class. By taking care of yourself, you’re teaching your child to do the same.
10 . Have a sense of humor!