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All school-aged learners face some level of feeling as they prepare for another school year. For many with gifted and talented abilities, the emotional intensity of starting another school year can be very overwhelming.
If this is a topic you can relate to (whether you have a “gifted” kid or not!), read on……
For starters, many gifted kids have high energy and intense curiosity levels (think of the Energizer bunny). Sometimes this evolves into profound worry, too, if they can’t find healthy ways to cope with the upcoming changes. While the fictitious character, Sheldon, on the TV show The Big Bang Theory may seem manufactured to some, people who live and work with highly sensitive gifted kids know the Sheldon character is not so far from the truth sometimes!
Gifted children’s back-to-school excitement may be viewed by others as excessive, the behavior almost hyperactive. Their persistent questions may seem like nagging and their imagination of what will be, irrational. Their passion for learning may be disrupted and replaced by extreme fears and anxieties of going back to school. And so on, and so on… Back-to-school time may turn from one of happy excitement to one of worrisome distress and apprehension.
Yes- this is normal intensive reaction and behavior in many gifted kids. But parents ask me –Please, what can I do? How can I help my child cope?
In one of my earlier blogs Help! My Child is So Intense and Sensitive!, I referred to some tips on helping children cope with anxieties. Here are some more, this time focusing on transitioning back to school.
Begin having family conversations about back-to-school, using positive self-talk techniques. In doing so, you can gradually prepare your child for the upcoming school experiences (“gradually” is underlined on purpose here!). Pay attention to what your child or teenager is saying and help him/her replace negative thoughts with more positive ones. [Some common fears: I read somewhere long ago that one of the biggest fears of kindergartners was “What do I do if I have to go to the bathroom?” For beginning middle schoolers one was “What if I can’t get my locker open?” and for girls, “What if I get my period at school?” For incoming high schoolers, “What if I get lost in the school and can’t find my classroom?”] Bottom line: find out what questions or anxieties your child may have, then deal with them calmly, rationally, and one slow step at a time.
Let your child or teen know how it was for you (even if you’re given the “oh brother” look). For one, they need to know that parents are not omniscient beings who live in a world where only success exists and life is without worry. Believe me – most kids DO think life for most everyone else is a cakewalk. Perhaps some role-modeling will help – you play the kid, and he or she takes on the parent advisor role. Or have them close their eyes and imagine what the worst thing is that could go wrong. Follow this with some creative problem solving conversations. Big brothers and sisters, or trusted friends can help guide your child, too.
Three techniques that seem to work well for most kids are:
Separation anxiety can occur at any age, so don’t think this is something only for young children. Young children may engage in behaviors such as clinginess, crying, and throwing tantrums. A teenager’s behavior usually masks the separation anxiety and may look more sullen, uncommunicative, disengaged or disinterested. However, the fear can range from minor to extremely intense. Emotional meltdowns and/or emotionally charged refusals to go to school reflect the latter.
Tips to prevent separation anxiety include:
Tips to deal with separation anxiety include:
Let your child’s or teen’s behavior guide you in providing the support they need. Parent Watch: Are they sleeping or eating well (or not)? Are they happy about school and engaged in getting ready (or not)? Behavior is kids’ unspoken language.
If you can find a SENG parent group in your area, join other parents. In these parent groups you may find the support and guidance you are seeking. See www.sengifted.org for local and regional parent group offerings. I run small groups for gifted teens in my office; they find listening to each other’s stories comforting and affirming – look for something through your school counselor?
Image Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Posted on August 29, 2012 by Paula J. Hillmann, PhD, LPC
Paula Hillmann is a professional counselor and educational psychologist who specializes in gifted education and talent development, working with children, adolescents, families, and schools in building strong and engaged partnerships. She is an advocacy coach for parents and teachers, and she guides children and adolescents in becoming mindful learners. Contact her at Advanced Learning Resources.
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