By Molly Isaacs-McLeod.
Do you have more than two children? Do you ever feel that third, or later, child gets short shrift? Is your third or later born child “along for the ride” with few activities of his own? These trends hold true for many families, gifted or not, with more than two children. In gifted families, the third child enters an intense and often already stressed environment.
Do these comments/sentiments sound familiar?
“We’re really not sure this one is gifted.” or “Reexamining your sense of normal.”
Let’s face it, if you have encountered one or two gifted children up close and personal and over a sustained period of time, a third or fourth child would have to cure plagues, bring about world peace, or create a work of art worthy of international acclaim during their PK years before they would register on your Richter scale of “different.”
“We are just too exhausted and broke (and not necessarily in that order) to focus on Child #3 like we did the rest.” or “Why we need a vacation, but can’t afford one, and have no one with whom to leave this many children.”
Gifted children often require services and accommodations beyond the “regular” school day. These needs may include OT, vision therapy, counseling, homeschooling, or enrichment. Scheduling one more round of appointments can feel overwhelming.
“Testing? Assessment? LOL” or “We’ve seen this before, this one is the same. “
When we, as parents, have gained information and experience in the process of raising our first and second born children we have seen the signs and markers of giftedness and the terrain is familiar. Anecdotally, there are a fair number of parents who never have their later born children assessed.
“She is SO different from the others.“ or “Where did this one come from?”
Sometimes, the third child is very different from the others. This seems to happen a lot when there are a number of years between the second to last and the last child. The third or later is certainly an individual in his own right, but enters a very different environment than first and second born children. It is akin to joining play or conversation that is in progress.
So what can we do for those later born children who are, for many years, relegated to the backseat and merely “along for the ride?” How can we encourage those children who are asked to wait around, seemingly forever, while attending a ridiculous number of activities and events on behalf of their earlier born siblings?
Honoring the third or later born child:
1. Be aware of the fact that due to your prior experience you may not be as “wowed” by the signs of giftedness exhibited by your later born children. Certainly there is a chance that they will not fall into the same range as their earlier born siblings, but it is likely they are more rather than less like their biological siblings in this regard. It is highly possible that their giftedness will manifest in a manner that differs from their siblings.
2. Hopefully as Child #3 and later born children begin requiring assistance, the older ones require less or can at least drive themselves to their appointments! In all seriousness, later born children deserve to have their needs met just as much as first and second born children.
3. As with having any child tested, regardless of birth order, think in to what you hope to accomplish by having assessment done. Is it to tailor educational opportunities, attain admittance to programs, gain a better sense of where the child as a whole, remediate concerning behaviors? The decision regarding assessment is to be made based on that particular child’s needs.
4. Not only is the third child her own person, she is also trying to find her way with a much larger, and in gifted families intense, group than earlier born children. There is more competition for attention and other resources, many “rules” are seemingly already in place.
5. Encourage interests and individual likes and dislikes. Take opportunities to spend time with later born children as earlier born children become busy with more increasingly independent activities and interest. Be sure that if there is an age difference, your younger child has a few “true peers” of his own.
6. Just a note, withholding early readers, pencils, and Snap Circuits, Jr sets will not prevent your later born child from being gifted.
Later born children often learn to adapt. They step into who they are with examples of what to and not to do having gone before. They have the advantage of access to their own personal human test balloons! While it is important to provide later born children with the opportunity to develop their own interests and to be supported in those, there are good life lessons to be learned while waiting around for older siblings. They learn about cooperation and consideration of others. They get to preview sports and other interest they may care to pursue as they get older. Best of all they have a number of years solo with mom and dad once the older siblings are out of the nest.
Are you a facilitator, trainer, or parent who has attended an SMPG? Would you like to submit a guest article for this section in 2015? Email your submission to email@example.com! ________________________________________________________
Molly A. Isaacs-McLeod is an attorney, mediator, educator, and mother of three gifted children. She provides advocacy, mediation, and educational planning services to families seeking appropriate accommodation for their gifted children. She is co-founder and president of Parents of Gifted Students Inc., a support and resource group for families of gifted children, and is a SENG Model Parent Group facilitator. Her areas of practice included estate planning, disability, and mediation. Prior to law school, she worked in public health where she gained experience in program development and management.