By Molly Isaacs-McLeod.
A cornerstone of the SMPG program is the idea that parents of gifted children are often the best support and resource for parents of gifted children. It is a simple idea with a lot of power. While each child and every family is unique, there are common themes that play out in many families raising gifted children. Families encounter issues related to intensity, depression, underachievement, perfectionism, etc. Many gifted families struggle with interaction with extended family, and sometimes with longtime friends. It is with these issues that other parents are uniquely equipped to offer support.
Having co-facilitated numerous SPMGs I have frequently observed the following exchange: one parent will describe an issue she has faced raising a gifted child, several other parents will nod in agreement or smile knowingly, and inevitably another parent will jump in and offer a solution that worked for his family when facing the same or similar issue. This type of exchange has a near magic quality. The parent raising the issue feels affirmed in her concerns, the nodding parents have their experience normalized (i.e. whew, we aren’t the only ones!), and the parent who offers guidance has an opportunity to help others and hopefully gets a proverbial “pat on the back” for successfully navigating the issue. Everyone benefits.
Certainly there are those times when others are continuing to struggle with an issue brought up in a group. Again the experience is normalized, making people feel less alone in the experience. Coping strategies are discussed. There is value in this exchange. Just because an approach did not work for one family does not mean it will not work for another. Sometimes hearing about a coping strategy helps parents to reframe the issue as well as potential options. Again, everyone benefits.
The support garnered from other parents of gifted students is not limited to the trying issues of the day or the crises faced by these families. They celebrate with you when your child excels, achieves a milestone, or earns an award or college admittance. Many parents of gifted children censor themselves when discussing their child’s abilities or achievements, fearful of negative feedback from friends and family members who see it as “bragging” rather than the basic sharing of excitement all parents have about their children when success is encountered.
If you are looking for connections with other parents of gifted students consider the following possibilities:
· Locate and sign up for a SENG Model Parent Group.
· Sign up for a SENG Online Parent Support Group.
· Locate your SENG state liaison; if your state does not have one, consider becoming one!
· Investigate your location for a GT parent group. Some are independent, some are school-based, and others are affiliated with the National Association for Gifted Children.
· Attend a SENG Annual Conference or other gifted conference geared to parents and families.
A final thought … fellow parents of gifted children are often gifted individuals themselves. In seeking support for your child, you are taking the first steps to creating community for your family, and friendships for yours