by Shari Hill
Many of us with gifted children realize our offspring are a little different early in their development. Often, in sharing these observations with others, we are seen as braggarts, or parents who “push” our kids. Well-meaning relatives suggest firmer discipline to calm them down. Pediatricians offer parenting books, and the implied “inadequate parent” casts its shadow. Once in school, overworked teachers with very little training in the “care and maintenance” of gifted children propose conferences and testing. Too often, the terms ADD, ADHD, and various other disorders begin to surface after these conferences.
When our first daughter was born, my husband and I began a wonderful journey into the world of the gifted. Sometimes frustrating, sometimes exhausting, often lonely, but always fascinating. As she grew, our research deepened and broadened. It was our job to learn all we could, but we soon realized the many misconceptions and myths with which we would deal. There seemed to be an “attitude” that appeared when the word “gifted” was mentioned. Though my daughter’s academic experiences varied from year to year, it seemed the social and emotional characteristics that shaped her personality were the bigger issue. She was intense, very verbally advanced (a skill she used masterfully to argue and manipulate), emotionally and physically sensitive, and I’m sure she invented the term “strong-willed.” In elementary school, the noise and commotion of the classroom overwhelmed her. She had few friends – nobody seemed interested in discussing Tolstoy in second grade. While we were very fortunate to have teachers who accelerated and enriched her curriculum, it was still clear that she did not fit well socially.
At home, she was a full-time job. She needed little sleep. We moved her from her crib to a mattress on the floor at six months, after finding her roaming the house at midnight. She totally gave up naps at eight months. She learned the word “NO!” upon exiting the womb, and used it constantly. Fiercely independent, she walked/ran at seven months. She was reading novels at three, and refused to let anyone read to her. She explored extensively, inside and out, and was apparently afraid of nothing. We had so many questions, concerns, fears, and we had no one to ask. I happened to hear about a SENG-Model Parent Support Group, and decided to give it a try. It was the best thing I ever did for our family.
There are no magical solutions offered there. No guaranteed cures or results. No “professional” advice or counseling. More importantly, it’s all about families sharing with each other. Sharing their frustrations, their joys, their thoughts, and sharing them with folks who actually “get it!” Exchanging ideas that worked for them, activities they discovered, books they had read. Nodding their heads and laughing, relieved to finally be able to speak openly.
Our daughter is now a junior in college. She is still independent, stubborn (whoops, I mean strong-willed), adventuresome, inquisitive, and sensitive. Funny thing, through the Parent Groups, I discovered many of those same traits in myself.
I encourage all of you to get together, arrange training for facilitators, and explore this wonderful challenge we’ve been given. For more information about SENG-Model groups, read:
SENG-Model Parent Support Groups, an introductory article on the structure of the groups, written by the authors of the model.
SENG’s Parents pages with information about the textbooks used in the groups.
Shari is the mother of two gifted children, now aged 17 and 21. She is a Parent Representative for California Association of the Gifted, a SENG-Model Parent Support Group Facilitator trainer, and serving her first year on the SENG Board. She is co-teaching this summer’s pre-conference workshop on the Model with Arlene DeVries in Albuquerque.