by Vidisha Patel
On a recent airplane trip across the country, I found myself situated between my two children. I am usually a bit claustrophobic on planes and wondered how yet again, I found myself in the middle seat. My kids are in middle school so they are certainly old enough to sit by themselves without my intervening. Yet over the years, I find that I am frequently ‘in the middle’ of my children; their emotions, their social lives, their education and even their seats! The therapist in me finds it interesting that I am constantly caught in the middle with my children.
As a therapist that works largely with gifted children and having two gifted children of my own, I have always been extremely interested and involved in my children’s lives. I cannot imagine it any other way. What started out as maternal love and care has turned into a passion and curiosity about children; how they think and what motivates them. My home has been a laboratory of sorts in that I have ‘piloted’ various therapeutic strategies and techniques on my kids first before bringing them into my practice. If it works for my kids why wouldn’t it work for others? In turn, my children have taught me one of the greatest lessons in life: Balance.
Balance is essential for children and for adults. We cannot live our children’s lives. We must allow them to fall and make their own mistakes. If we are constantly warning them of impending danger, they will never be able to assess it for themselves.
Both as a parent and a therapist, I have noticed many parents who try to micromanage their gifted children’s lives. For many, the journey to obtaining the gifted identification has been a cumbersome and stressful one. The need to find answers for the best educational and behavioral solutions has made many parents hyper vigilant about their children’s needs. Then when the children are appropriately placed, the parents find themselves acclimated to constant vigilance and unable to let go.
Gifted or not, all children need room to grow. They thrive on the ability to take charge of their situations, manage their homework schedules and make friends. Children need the opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them. They expand their minds through many different kinds of experiences.
When our children were learning to crawl and walk we encouraged them. We did not tell them to stop because they might hurt themselves. We made sure that they had a relatively safe environment to explore and we made ourselves available if they needed assistance. Similarly, as our children grow up and go to school, we can make ourselves available to them without holding on. Nurturing our children’s experiences without hovering over them will boost their self-confidence and self-esteem.
As parents we need to learn to give our gifted children the gift of:
G-Going forward on their own
I –Independence to find their path
F –Freedom to explore
T – Trust that they will make good choices
E – Experiences to learn from
D – Determination that they will find their way
These gifts will allow us all to live a more balanced life and will give our children the confidence that they need to be successful.
Dr. Vidisha Patel has a doctorate of Education in Counseling Psychology and practices as a therapist in Sarasota, Florida, where much of her work is with gifted children and their families, with a focus on stress and anxiety. She is licensed to teach stress management techniques. Dr. Patel is active in her local community and regularly speaks at conferences, schools, and parenting groups throughout the community and the state. As a consultant for Florida State University she trains primary caregivers on infant mental health. Dr. Patel’s professional affiliations include The American Counseling Association, The World Association of Infant Mental Health, The Zero to Three Society, Sarasota County Medical Society Alliance, and the Pine View School Board of Directors. Dr. Patel holds an MBA from Columbia University and worked in finance on Wall Street and overseas before obtaining her doctorate in psychology. Dr. Patel is the mother of two gifted children.