By Caroline Maguire, M. Ed., PCC.
You have watched your gifted child struggle making friends. He is the kid who will poke others, yell when unnecessary and laugh at jokes that are not funny or even insulting. Does she get her feelings hurt easily and refuse apologies?
We want our children to learn social emotional skills. We want them to pick up the nuances of friendship and connections. We know we are their role models, but sometimes even we don’t fully understand where they are coming from.
Social Emotional Challenges for Gifted Children
Gifted children may run into social emotional difficulties out of boredom and non-challenging curriculum. They are likely to spend up to one-half of their classroom time waiting for the other students to catch up. These children often respond to this down time by disrupting others in an effort to self-amuse. And while a child may be ahead of peers in one dimension, that does not mean social emotional skills come easily to them. Social relationships may be an arena where she needs more coaching and direct instruction to learn key social skills.
Social-emotional Needs of Gifted and Talented Students
Gifted children often struggle with social emotional skills. Social skills can be learned at any age. Parents need to stay in tune with their specific child's needs and help shape a strong framework for social-emotional health.
5 Ways Parents Can Increase Confidence in Gifted Children:
1) Build Her Organization, Independence and Problem-Solving Skills – Every day, help your child learn to think for himself. Rather than solving the problem for him, prompt him using open questions to figure out the solution himself. Ask, “Where did you last see it?” “What can you do to locate the assignment?” One of the key aspects of social relationship skills is to problem solve.
2) Practice ahead of time – Help her learn how to reach out and make friends by practicing with you or siblings in emotionally safe situations. Try to simulate the challenge so she experiences what it feels like. Work together to find strategies to address the challenges. For example, create a (virtual) play date with the goal of managing her emotions when she loses a game.
3) Decide on a code word – Work together to create a plan to work on his urge to control situations and others. Be sure to build in a period such as counting to 10 or breathing slowly to regain composure. Create a subtle cue or code word to remind your child of his mission. For example, you may also say a code word like “popcorn.”
4) Review friendship issues - Your child may have a hard time making friends because she feels she has little in common with others, or she has been told she is a “show off.” I recommend finding kids who she can relate to by asking your school counselors to help find a match. Find a place where your child can find friends who share her interests and talents. Help coach her through any dynamics that come up by having collaborative conversations. Work with her to step into her friends’ shoes to see what her role is and what it takes to be a good friend.
5) Monitor for changes in behavior – Gifted children may feel different, or they are not comfortable with the messages they receive. It is important to keep an eye on your child and monitor for depression. Encourage your child to join sports and clubs to make all types of friends. Help her recognize where her passions lie, why friendships are valuable, what interests she would like to share with a friend and what a positive relationship looks like.
A new positive chapter
Your goal is to help your child adopt new, positive skills and behaviors. You want them to practice in a safe and trusting environment. Part of your child learning social skills is practicing without parents intervening. When a coach is watching a football game he does not suit up and take over. He makes notes to give the players at half time. As a parent coaching your child to improve his social skills, the best way to help your child is to guide him, prepare him and allow your him to practice without parental interference.
For scripts, tools, advice and actionable exercising on helping children develop social skills, check out Why Will No One Play with Me? by Caroline Maguire, M.Ed.
Caroline Maguire, M. Ed., earned her undergraduate degree at Trinity College and her Masters of Education and Early Childhood Development at Lesley University with a specialization in social emotional learning (SEL). She the founder of a comprehensive Social Emotional Learning (SEL) training methodology for adults, par