Many parents will tell me that it “really doesn’t matter” if their child is gifted or not. I get what they’re telling me – they love their child regardless of their child’s IQ score. But understanding what being gifted can mean really does matter. Understanding the social and emotional aspects of giftedness helps smooth out the common challenges of parenting a gifted kid. Understanding what being gifted can mean helps those who are gifted feel less alone, weird, or defective.
Gifted people tend to be intense. Psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski identified 5 areas of “overexcitabilities” in gifted people. These overexcitabilities reflect a highly tuned innate awareness and sensitivity in several areas. These intensities may look like (or lead to) problematic behaviors at times. For example, gifted kids tend to become enthralled with a preferred and interesting task. They will likely want to see the task through to completion and become very upset if interrupted or incredibly frustrated if not able to execute on their plan.
Many gifted people have very well developed memories. Further, when gifted people remember an event, they tend to re-experience the event. Their emotions are closely tied to their memories and they can easily picture the event, oftentimes putting themselves back in the moment. This can be very helpful at times, but can also lead to feelings of anxiety or sadness when the memory is unpleasant. These kids may want to avoid people, places, or situations that are tied to an unpleasant memory, or they may not be able to stop thinking about something that bothered them. Our gifted kids can be grudge holders.
When faced with a problem, gifted people often are able to generate creative (and effective) solutions to problems. It often seems to me like gifted kids look at a problem or situation a bit differently than others. Also, gifted kids tend to be imaginative, sometimes making them prone to telling lies or “alternative facts.”
Many a gifted child is described as an “old soul.” They tend to come across as deeper, more mature, and more thoughtful than their peers. It’s an endearing quality, but one that can lead to feelings of loneliness or isolation for many gifted kids. They may feel they don’t “fit in” with their peers, they may find it difficult to connect with others, or they may have a hard time getting along with others.
Understanding the core characteristics of gifted kids can lead to an acceptance and appreciation of some of the behaviors that are often viewed as problematic or isolating. To learn more about how these characteristics can impact daily functioning, listen to this podcast on Emotional Intensity in Gifted Children.