by Colleen Kessler

Making friends can be hard for any child, but for socially awkward gifted children or twice-exceptional kiddos, the challenge is only multiplied. While their brains are working on overdrive, and they can have an intelligent conversation with an adult expert in the field in which they are interested, put them in the same room with kids their own age, and all bets are off. And, because they often develop asynchronously, gifted children may lag behind emotionally.
Let’s face it, fitting in and building relationships is tough. It’s hard for all of us. We fear rejection, want to be liked, and long for acceptance. We want to find our people. But, when they’re not interested in the same games as their age peers, or seem to know everything and want to talk all the time, it can be overwhelming for gifted children that just want to fit in.

Finding the right people for our gifted children sometimes feels like it’s impossible. And, as parents, we want our kids to be connected and happy.

Here are five tips for helping our gifted children make {and keep} friendships:

1. Be Understanding

I don’t know about you, but I am not likely to win any Mother-of-the-Year awards anytime soon. I struggle to keep my patience and understanding on track when I watch my son and daughter sabotage their own chances at making friends.

I have even been known to tell my kids to “stop being weird.”

Not really the most effective parenting technique.

But, just as making friendships is tough for gifted children, parenting them through it is even harder. It’s miserable to sit and watch them be socially awkward, and difficult to keep from swooping in there to help them be a better friend.

Parents, we need to try harder. We need to realize the this is not something we can do for our gifted children. We just need to be there for them. We can offer a sympathetic ear, and even some advice when it’s asked for. But we can’t solve their problems. We can be an understanding presence for them whenever and wherever they need it.

2. Don’t Offer Platitudes

It takes time, patience, and hard work to make strong friendships. Don’t tell your gifted children {or yourself} otherwise. It’s not as simple as taking your child to the busiest playground in your area or inviting someone over for a play date. Or telling your child to just be nice to people.

And believe me, I’ve tried everything.

Keep giving your gifted children opportunities to meet new children and adults. Take them to museum classes that fit their interests, library programs for homeschoolers, join a co-op, etc. If necessary, chat with your kids before you go to these places or events. Coach them on how to talk to other kids.

Don’t put pressure on your child to make friends, though. And, don’t step in and try to do it for them. It’s a terrible feeling for even young gifted kids to realize that their mom making them be friends with one another.

3. Encourage Them to Get Involved

Some of my best friendships were made through my involvement in sports, clubs, and through jobs I held. Our shared experiences helped us to forge a bond that, in many cases, has stood the test of time.

This can be the same for your child. Is he interested in LEGO or robotics? See if there is a First Lego League team in your area. How about camping and crafts? Maybe your daughter can join an American Heritage Girls group. Does she want to play a musical instrument? Instead of simply taking lessons, see if you can find a homeschool band program.

Give your kids that same opportunity to be around other like-minded kids. Who knows what will happen.

4. Practice Social Skills

Gifted children often struggle socially and emotionally. Social interactions are difficult and they don’t always know how to behave or read cues from others.

You can guide your gifted kids toward a better social awareness by role playing, or talking them through, situations in which they may find themselves. We work on new things depending on where we are going, but there are some issues we seem to need to work through constantly like:

Volume control – some gifted children struggle with this when talking. {And, if you come into my house at any given time, you’re likely to be thrown backwards from the dueling volume levels from four intense children at once.}

Personal space – this is a HUGE challenge for one of my gifted kids. I am constantly reminding him that he is “in my face,” and he needs to maintain boundaries. So, we practice this often.

Using the telephone – some gifted children have trouble figuring out what to say, and as making a phone call is a life skill, we practice calling friends and relatives.

Introductions – meeting someone new for the first time can be intimidating, but for a gifted child, it can be overwhelming. The fear of failure, not being liked, or of saying the wrong thing can paralyze your child. We practice what to say when we meet new people.

5. Empathize

The most important thing you can do for your child is to validate his feelings and be there for him. Empathize with him when he laments about not being invited to a party, or over a missed opportunity to talk to someone new. Tell her, “I know it’s hard to make new friends. I struggle too. Thank goodness your dad is with me when we go to events because he helps me break the ice with new people. We’re lucky to have him to help pave our ways.”

Not only will these tips help your gifted children make friends, but they’ll bring your family closer together as you navigate the difficult social waters together.

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Colleen Kessler, Catholic wife, homeschool mom of four gifted/twice-exceptional kids, author of books for teachers, parents, and children. Follow her blog at http://www.raisinglifelonglearners.com/

 

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