Lisa Van Gemert: To what extent are giftedness and behavior connected?
Dr. Vidisha Patel: Gifted kids come in such a wide range, and their behaviors are
equally wide ranging. I don’t know that there’s an exact correlation between the two.
Some highly and profoundly gifted children are perfectionists, and that carries over to
their behavior. On the other hand, some gifted children are twice exceptional, and their
social skills are not something they are able to manage without outside assistance.
LVG: One of the focuses of your practice is on stress and anxiety. How can
parents teach children to behave appropriately without increasing stress?
VP: Plan ahead. Prepare kids. With a lot of gifted kids, it helps them to know what’s
coming up. If you have a meal planned at some fancy restaurant, well before the
gathering, it’s helpful to plan. You explain to the child, “This is what we’re going to do.
This is the behavior I’d like to see.” Explain it ahead of time in a positive, proactive way
so there’s no pressure. Mention the upcoming event several times so there are no
Role playing is also helpful. There are two ways to role play. In one way, you’re actually
showing them the behavior that is expected. The other way is to reverse roles, with you
saying, “I’ll be the child, you be the parent.” Act like a child and have them try and figure
out if they think that works. If it doesn’t, ask them, “How would you handle it?” In this
way, you’re making them a part of the solution.
LVG: What are the most crucial social skills kids need to learn?
VP: They need to have an understanding of their own emotions. The foundation for
social skills is built on relationships. You have to be able to be in a relationship with
someone else to live in this world. You have relationships with people at the grocery
store, with your peers, and with a variety of different people. Through that you gain an
understanding of others, and the basis of it all is communication.
LVG: How can children get an understanding of their own emotions?
VP: In my practice, I use a list of words that are emotional adjectives. When children
first come in and I ask them what’s going on in a specific situation, they’ll have a limited
vocabulary to describe what their mood or emotion was—maybe only three or four
words. So I do exercises and play games to help them. For example, if their mood was
the weather, would it be a sunny day or a gray day? I use art to help them identify their
emotions. Having children draw emotions can make them very familiar with the concept.