Communicating with your gifted children

Communication is important for gifted children. It is essential that the child’s home be a sanctuary where honest and safe communication is honoured and is the norm. Communication with your gifted child, is her lifeline. Even if you are the only adult with whom she can communicate freely and you accept and value her, she can withstand a fair amount of frustration from the bigger world outside. You are the key person to provide a place of emotional safety and acceptance. If you find yourself unable to completely do so, it is best you find another individual – perhaps a teacher, neighbour, mentor, or friend – who validates your child as a person and assures her that what she feels and believes in is reasonable and worthwhile.

Listen, if you want to communicate.

  • Actively listen (you are conveying to the child that his ideas, feelings, and values are worth listening to)
  • Single most important element of communication

Accept feelings even when you disagree with them.

  • Each person has a right to their own feelings – feelings are not “right” or “wrong” They are an expression of a person’s state of mind at a given point of time.
  • Encourage your child to express how she feels and to do so frequently.

Create an atmosphere that promotes communication.

  • Every communication has an emotional component to it. Your tone of voice, loudness, posture, and gestures will influence the emotional atmosphere.

Use reflective listening

  • Paraphrase what the child says to mirror the feelings that seem to underlie his words.
  • It helps to accept your child’s feelings.
  • You don’t have to agree, but you accept that the child has a right to his feelings without making any judgment that they are good, bad, right or wrong.
  • Helps the child practice reflective thinking – which clarifies his feelings, as well as help him decide how to handle those feelings so that he can solve problems on his own.

Understand silence

  • If you can figure out the motivation behind a child’s silence you can usually help more.

Set aside special time

  • One of the most important techniques parents can use to encourage communication, regardless of your child’s age.
  • Does not have to last long, but it does need to happen every day.
  • You can do almost anything during this time, but avoid competitive activities. You want to convey to the child that he is always important not just when he is winning or achieving.

Assess emotional temperatures

  • Some gifted children are reluctant to talk about their feelings, you can use a scale of 1-10 to get them to describe their feelings instead.

Share feelings

  • Practice expressing your own emotions in healthy ways and then identify them so your child can objectively view another’s emotions.

Separate the behaviour from the child

  • Explain your disapproval without broad attacks that criticize the child as a person.
  • Comment directly as a specific behaviour to be more accurate.
  • This will result in better communication.

Remember your own past

  • Help create a positive communication climate by talking about situations you experienced as a child and associated feelings.
  • Gifted children can be particularly responsive when adults admit to have delicate feelings such as hurt or fear or embarrassment.

Teach interpersonal skills

  • Gifted children sometimes need to be specifically taught to make eye contact and speak in a friendly manner.
  • Role-playing these skills with children can help a child better understand his role in social interactions with his friends.

Monitor your own intense feelings

  • Trying to hide your feelings only creates distrust, lack of confidence in the relationship, and emotional estrangement.
  • If you feel they are too intense/personal to share, perhaps try saying, “Right now, I have very strong feelings about this, and I’m going to need some time to let them settle before I can talk with you.”

Avoid untrue or contradictory messages

Communicate with touch

  • Can help foster a climate of better communications, because touch conveys connection and care.

Avoid gossip

  • (about other children) with their extra sensitivity and tendency towards perfectionism gifted children can be hurt deeply if they overhear you talking with others about their problems.
  • This may create resentment and anger.

Reward honesty

  • Which will in return promote honesty.

Establish a compliant department

  • Your child need opportunities to say how she feels, which includes complaints. Otherwise she is likly to feel that her views are unimportant, and she may accumulate grievances until she is carrying a heavy load.
  • Use a sticky board, bulletin board, family meetings, etc…

Respect your child’s feelings, and don’t intrude

  • Prying conveys insensitivity and a lack of respect. Your continued respect and support will allow them to reconsider their emotional isolation.

Handle sensitive topics delicately

  • Because gifted children’s feelings are so intense, they may feel vulnerable when they share feelings openly.
  • Sometimes it works when you talk with your child and avoid eye contact, with the lights out, during a walk, in a car, etc..
  • Written communication

Appreciate temperament differences

  • Gifted children who suffer from Asperger’s Disorder are at the extreme end of the termperament spectrum and have great difficulty with communication and understanding others’ feelings.
  • Different children require different communication approaches.

Avoid too many “observations”

  • Any one observation will not have a major impact but a string of observations could be seen by a gifted child as evaluative.
  • Too many observations imply that the parents are keenly watch, and evaluating what the child is doing.

Avoid making promises, they can be difficult to keep

  • Be honest with your child about what you can and cannot promise.
  • Help your child understand that your priorities involve keep her, and others safe, and you cannot promise to do anything that which might jeopardize that.

Parts of this article are excerpts from A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children . You may view/purchase it from clicking on the link.

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