The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree: Gifted Parents Parenting Gifted Children
Author: Lori Comallie-Caplan
Citation: First published in the SENGVine, Gifted Adult edition, January 2012
Facilitating SENG Model Parent Groups has provided me with unquestionable evidence that gifted kids come from gifted parents. What is surprising, is that parents are often unaware of their own giftedness. When I am doing parent groups, I always make the request, “Raise your hand if you are here because you have gifted children.” Then I say, “Keep your hand in the air if you are gifted.” So many hands go down.
If parents deny their own giftedness, their children will wonder if there is something wrong with being gifted. Just as parents must nurture their children’s awareness of being gifted, so they must also nurture their awareness of being gifted. Failure to appreciate one’s own gifted qualities may lead to a failure to appreciate and interact successfully as a parent with their gifted child.
It is especially wonderful to watch parents become self-aware during the SENG Model Parent Group discussions regarding intensity, sensitivity, and perfectionism. This self-awareness is critical for parents to develop a deeper relationship with their gifted children. Self-awareness contributes to our unique identity and ability to function more wholly in the world. Have you ever been told that you are too intense, too sensitive, too perfectionistic? These statements can lead to alienation from others and can engender feelings of isolation and loneliness. Gifted persons may begin to question whether they are as smart as they think, or whether they will be discovered as imposters. All in all, they may have grown up feeling as if they didn’t fit in. Sensitivity and self-imposed isolation may have made it harder to find friends, even as an adult. Our heart breaks when we see our children experiencing the same problems with friendships, isolation, and even depression.
One of the greatest dangers for gifted parents is trying to save their child from the personal discontent that they may have felt growing up gifted, or to live lost experiences through their children. In the SENG Model Parenting Group book, A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, the authors offer this advice:One of the most enlightening discussions during SENG Model Parent Groups centers on the concept of overexcitabilities and how it applies to our children. It is inspiring to watch parents realize that there are neurological differences that explain why their children are the way they are. Then they begin to apply that same knowledge to themselves. They begin to understand the blessings and the curses associated with gifted traits, as well as understanding the benefits and liabilities of their children’s gifted social emotional qualities. Developing this understanding affects their communication and interactions with their partners and their children: “Just as with gifted children, your passion, idealism, concern for quality, perfectionism, and impatience may be great strengths, but they can also be hindrances” (Webb, Gore, Amend, & DeVries, 2007, p. 248).
Be involved in your children’s lives, but keep your own desires separate from those of your children. Allow your children to live their lives, and you live yours. Understand the importance of your relationship with your child, cherish and nurture it. Know that even though your efforts may not seem as though they are resulting in the changes you want, they are nevertheless important. Think of your parenting behaviors as a deposit in a bank. Every time you put a little more in, the total grows. Sometimes your investments grow rapidly; other times they grow slowly. But after a few years, there is generally a substantial amount that will be a legacy to your children that will make you feel pleased, satisfied and fulfilled.” (Webb, Gore, Amend, & DeVries, 2007, p. 248-249).
I wish everyone a year of self-awareness and deeper understanding of the joys of being gifted and parenting a gifted child.
Webb, J. T., Gore, J. L., Amend, E. R., & DeVries, A. R. (2007). A parent’s guide to gifted children. Scottsdale, AR: Great Potential Press.
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In 1981, SENG established guidelines for SENG Model Parent Support Groups (SMPGs). SMPGs bring together groups of interested parents of gifted and talented children to discuss such topics as motivation, discipline, stress management, and peer relationships. This column offers information and advice based on the experience of trained SMPG facilitators, both to apply in their own parent groups and for other parents to use and learn from. Learn more about the SMPG program at http://sengifted.org/programs/seng-model-parent-groups.
SENG Preisdent Lori Comallie-Caplan is currently in private practice specializing in therapy and evaluation of gifted children and adolescents in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Mrs. Comallie-Caplan is a Certified Educational Diagnostician and Certified Frasier Talent Assessment Profile Evaluator. She also is a certified SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) Model Parent Group Facilitator as well as a SENG Model Parent Group Facilitator Trainer. She frequently presents at SENG and NAGC annual conferences.