Teaching Gifted Learners to Manage Stress in High School

Updated: Jan 12, 2019

By Elizabeth Shaunessy.

Stress can be experienced by gifted high school students who are often guided to take rigorous academic preparation, such as the International Baccalaureate Program, Advanced Placement, and dual enrollment in college while concurrently in high school. While many students enrolled in these programs of study find them intellectually stimulating experiences with others of similar abilities and interests, the demanding requirements may be relatively new to students who had previously found elementary and middle school easily mastered. Teachers and parents, then, should consider methods and strategies for integrating effective coping strategies in the daily lives of gifted and high ability learners, particularly those whose repertoire may not include these tools.

In addition to the academic challenges presented by these programs, gifted high school students are also experiencing developmental changes typical of all adolescents. The combination of being a teen and keeping up with demanding course requirements may lead to increased stress for learners. Investigations of general populations of adolescents indicate that increased stress is associated with increased levels of anxiety. Some signs of increased anxiety include excessive worrying, difficulty relaxing, shortness of breath, sleep challenges, difficulty concentrating, and avoidance of demands or social situations. There’s been little research about stress among gifted or high achieving students. However, recent studies of IB students’ well-being indicated that students with greater academic stressors than typical high school students are more likely to have anxiety than their peers in general education.

To support our gifted, a comprehensive curriculum and at-home guidance in identifying stressors and developing effective coping strategies is essential for lifelong happiness. Effective ways of coping are provided below, and this list of recommendations can be shared with parents and teachers. The list pinpoints specific recommendations to be shared with gifted learners, though these are also strategies that can be helpful for individuals who are not gifted.

Effective Coping Strategies

Appraise Life Positively

· Think about the good things in your life

· See the good things in a difficult situation

· Keep up friendships or make new friends

· Say nice things to others

· Be close with someone you care about

Time and Task Management

· Focus and work hard to just get the work done

· Plan (prioritize assignments, break work into smaller parts, pace self)

· Focus on current assignments due first

· Organize (make “to do” list; schedule time)

· Take short breaks

· Manage time (get up earlier; do work on bus)

· Work with classmates on assignments

· Work in study groups

· Acknowledge or celebrate tasks done

Positive Actions

· Talk to parent (or other trusted adult) about what’s bothering you

· Spend time with family

· Talk to older sibling

· Go to church or youth group

· Adopt a positive attitude

· Laugh, joke, or make light of situation

· Remind self of future benefits of current course of study

· Stand by choices

· Practice to well on big tests, lik