Dearest Parents of Gifted Kids,
August generally brings a buzz of angst and excited preparations for a new school year. But this is no normal August. A few days ago, my daughter reminded me that school was starting on Monday and she really needed supplies. Oops! In the flurry of school emails, news reports and "what ifs," #2 pencils have been the last thing on my mind.
This is a year of pivotal change. Bye-bye status quo. A new day has dawned and it is calling for an increased sense of responsibility and action. Whether we wanted it or not, we just moved into the pilot seat.
This may make us a bit nervous. Afterall, we are anxious, emotionally intense, sensitive, adults raising anxious, emotionally intense, sensitive kids.
Actually, there is nothing more glorious. Those qualities are the very ones that lend themselves to advanced personality development. Now, more than ever, we need innovations that will solve the problems facing humanity. But we also need humans with a capacity for self-reflection, growth and a compulsion to prioritize the greatest good for all over ego and financial gain.
Some have suggested that children may fall behind academically this year. But we are now living in the information age in which most answers are simply a click away. Who will our children be lagging behind when the whole world is facing the same setbacks together? It is this mindset of competition that seeks to pit us against one another.
So how are we going to support our children this year?
We are going to put on our big gifted parent underpants and stand tall. We are going to focus on the things that really matter.
Here is a game plan should you choose to accept it:
1.Take control of technology
If your child is on a device, he/she is receiving ads, news blurbs and who knows what else. Gifted kids may be intellectually advanced, but they are also often deeply emotionally impacted by the information they absorb. In recent weeks I have received late night texts from teenagers who can’t sleep due to concerns about climate change, our leadership and the ills of humanity. These curious children may seek out information, but do not need to have it at their fingertips. Providing a child a device without parental controls on content is like dropping them off in Vegas with a credit card.
2.Prioritize connection over all else
Family: When possible, eat breakfast together in the morning and dinner together at night.
Teachers: Help our children to see the connections that exist in all of our relationships, including that between student and teacher. How can this be nurtured beyond academics?
Nature: Go outside every day. Touch the grass, the dirt, the snow. If choosing between homework and nature, choose nature.
3.Take it one day at a time
Really. I know this is hard for many of us who need to know what to expect. However, we have to model adaptability to our children. Make efforts to embrace ambiguity by resisting the temptation to plan far ahead.
4. Create certainty within uncertainty
Every morning, have each family member create their own schedule for the day. This should include scheduled periods of fun in which parents agree not to make academic or household requests.
5.Mission of the day
Have everyone venture to school, online or work with a mission in mind. These missions should focus on character development and growth. One possibility is to look for signs of someone who is struggling in some way, then identify a simple action that could be done to support that person. These missions could also focus on being intentional in practicing a virtue such as integrity, curiosity or tact.
6.Let go of external expectations
The Jones’ are on an extended vacation – hopefully to never return.
Let kids make their own lunch, help make dinner, and do their own laundry even if it turns pink.
8.Value collaboration over competition
Take a nonchalant approach to standardized tests, grades and competitions. Acknowledge collaborative efforts at home and school.
9.Create habits that instill optimism
Watch video clips or shows about the good things going on in the world, particularly before bed. Talk about potential positive outcomes resulting from the pandemic. Perhaps that dreaded peer who has bullied your child throughout elementary school will be rendered a little less powerful this year.
Gifted children often struggle with a variety of intensities. Fight the tendency to pity them, answer for them, spare them from responsibility, or solve their dilemmas. Shift the focus from removing emotional pain to supporting them as they move through it. Help bring awareness to the lessons that lie within difficult circumstances.
Alright team. Here we go – school year 2020. Together, we've got this.