Understanding the peer relationships of academically gifted students continues to be a concern of both researchers and practitioners in the field of gifted education. On one hand, the literature suggests that in most situations, being intellectually gifted is generally an asset socially and emotionally (Robinson, 2008) and gifted students tend to be well-received by peers (Neihart, 2007). On the other hand, some evidence reveals that many gifted students express that they do not “fit the mold” and “feel different”, and this sense of difference may, in turn, lead to general feelings of unease or lack of competence in social situations and difficulties creating and maintaining relationships with other people, including peers of the same age (Gross, 2015).
Common social and emotional experiences for gifted children can reflect:
- differences in their abilities compared to same-age peers
- tendencies toward introversion and perceived issues with social acceptance
- conflicts or anxieties associated with their inner experiences of giftedness
- a critical and self-critical nature, often resulting in perfectionism or low self-worth
It is clear that there is no single manner in which a child can be gifted. Emotional and social difficulties vary, also, from one gifted child to another. These difficulties have their roots in asynchronous development. Gifted children have emotional, physical, and intellectual development that are not equal; not in ‘sync’ according to Miraca Gross, director of GERRIC (Gross, 2001).
Academically gifted children have an intellect above their emotional and physical age-level. An intellectually gifted 5-year-old may have the intellect similar to that of an 8-year-old, emotional development similar to a 3-year-old, and physical development on par with a 6-year-old. The higher the intellect, the more out-of-sync with emotional and physical development they may be.
A gifted child understands concepts that he is not able to deal with emotionally. Death, the future, or world hunger may become overwhelming concerns. Situations like this can create frustration and distress.
What can you do to support your gifted child emotionally ?
- You can support your child to:
- Make time for friends.
- Be open to new friendships.
- Practise being a good host.
- Practise friendship skills by role-playing situations.
- Be a good listener, use eye contact to show interest and caring for others.
- Avoid bragging, while still being sincere about their own abilities.
- Participate in a variety of group activities, to create different friendship opportunities.
- Accept those who think and act differently from you.
- Enroll in a Comprehensive Social and Emotional Learning Program
- Spending time with like-minded peers can provide your child with opportunities for engaging with those who think and learn in similar ways. They can share their values and interests, and challenge one another. This is likely to result in improved chances of being understood, with better prospects of forming stable and supportive friendships, and the comfort of feeling accepted.
- Remember your child’s emotional needs may be at a different age-level to their intellectual ability. Recognise your child’s chronological age and comfort them according to their needs. A 6-year-old with the maths skills of a 10-year-old will still likely require the emotional support appropriate for a 6-year-old.
Some of the issues described throughout this article may be addressed by providing appropriate educational and counselling interventions. For example, The Best of Friends program has been carefully designed to meet the social and emotional needs of gifted students. You can find our more about the program by visiting http://bof.quirkykid.com.au or https://childpsychologist.com.au/workshops/
For more information about how to support the social and emotional needs of your child, contact us with any questions.
Adams-Byers, J., Squiller Whitsell, S., & Moon, S. (2004). Gifted students’ perceptions of the academic and social/emotional effects of homogeneous and heterogeneous grouping. Gifted Child Quarterly, 48(1), 7–20
Gross, M. U. M., (2001) From “play partner” to “sure shelter”: What do gifted children seek from friendship? GERRIC News, 4-5
Gross, M. U. (2015). Characteristics of Able Gifted Highly Gifted Exceptionally Gifted and Profoundly Gifted Learners. In Applied Practice for Educators of Gifted and Able Learners (pp. 3-23). SensePublishers.
Neihart, M. (2007). The Socioaffective Impact of Acceleration and Ability Grouping Recommendations for Best Practice. Gifted Child Quarterly, 51(4), 330-341.
Robinson, N. M. (2008). The social world of gifted children and youth. In Handbook of giftedness in children (pp. 33-51). Springer US.