Let Them Know They are Gifted

Although my youngest gifted son is 14 years old now, I feel as though I have many more years of parenting experience behind me than I do ahead of me.  And this, I think, gives me enough credible perspective to ask myself, “what is the one thing I wish I had known or done differently BEFORE I started on this journey of raising my gifted sons?”, and then be able to answer my own question with a insightful and helpful answer for you.

The answer is this: Let your child know they are gifted, and tell them when they are young.

Letting your child know they are gifted.  I know this is a debated topic, and depending on your own experience and where you are on your journey, you may disagree with me.  I can only relay what my experience has taught me, and hopefully you can take away a few grains of parenting wisdom to help you a bit on your journey with your gifted child.

And so it goes like this:

Despite having been around the gifted children in our extended family, and having been a public school teacher myself, it still never occurred to me when my children were very young that they could be gifted. Why?  Because, way back when I first became a mom, my idea of a gifted child was the child who always made straight A’s, excelled in school, was popular among his peers, and was the teacher’s pet.  Period.  I believed that schools defined who was gifted and who was not gifted, and it was all based on a teacher recommendation and a school-administered test.  My two oldest sons made very good grades, but not all A’s all the time; so, to me, that did not equal gifted.

Why am I telling you my historical view of giftedness?  Because my erroneous thinking back then continued all the way up, for nearly 20 years, until my youngest gifted son was 11 years old.  It wasn’t so much that I didn’t recognize the gifted traits in them, it was more the fact that normally, children who have been tagged for being gifted are the same children who excelled perfectly in school, made straight A’s..… well, you know the stereotype I’m talking about.

My ignorance to the fact that my children were gifted didn’t so much hurt my oldest.  He loved school, was self-motivated and he always did very well.  My middle son hated school most likely because he was a visual spatial learner, but he accepted his fate that he would have to suffer through his K-12 education, and it wasn’t at all a pleasant journey.  Had we known, or he’d known, that he was gifted, his journey would have been quite different, more educationally beneficial and a much happier journey for him.

As far as my youngest gifted son, had we accepted that he was truly gifted and told him when he was young, he would not have spent so many years wondering why he was so different and out of sync.  Knowing he was gifted would have given him a real reason why he felt like he did not fit in.  Knowing he was gifted when he was younger would have provided him the many answers to the many questions he had about himself.  Instead of feeling as though something was wrong with himself, he could have seen that what he felt was actually right for him.

In short, had my youngest son known he was gifted when he was younger, much of the pain, confusion and heartbreak could have been averted.

Parents of gifted children know that raising a gifted child is a challenge because of the unique educational, emotional and social needs giftedness embodies and presents.  We also know that gifted children most often are burdened with the inherent complexities and unique needs of giftedness.  If letting them know about their giftedness could help them understand, accept or lessen their burden, shouldn’t they know?

Gifted children realize early on that they are different from their peers.  They discover soon enough that they usually know more than the other children their age.  Gifted children have different interests than their friends and they find they don’t have as much in common with their same-age friends.  To their friends, our gifted children may seem arrogant because of their more complex topics of conversation.  Our gifted children, at a young age, realize they are out of sync with their friends, they don’t quite fit in.  If letting them know about their giftedness could help them understand, accept and moderate their social presence, shouldn’t they know?

Giftedness is who they are; shouldn’t they know?

This post is part of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum May 2014 Blog Hop: “Special Tips, Toys, Tricks, & Tools for Parenting & Educating Gifted/2E”.  Gifted Homeschoolers Forum is one of the most comprehensive, resource-rich sites on the internet for giftedness.  You don’t have to be homeschooling to find a wealth of information about gifted children at Gifted Homeschoolers Forum

GHF May 2014 blog hop

22 Comments on “Let Them Know They are Gifted

  1. I wish so much I had been told. It would have saved me years of hurt and a misdiagnosis of a psychological disorder. I don’t know if my 5 and 7 year old are ready to hear it yet, but when the time comes, I WILL be telling them. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Thank you for your “thumbs up” on telling children about their giftedness; I recognize it is debatable, so hearing others’ experience helps us all! Thanks!

  2. It seems to me like you want them to understand that they’re different because they’re gifted. May I offer a different perspective?

    My 5 yo is in a gifted school, and while she is now around age-equivalent, intellectual peers, they’re all still wildly different. One of them has a amazing memory.. my kid on the other hand, excels in empathy and art. Telling her that she is gifted wouldn’t help explain why her classmates aren’t interested in her interests to the same depth. I have focused from the start on explaining to her that everybody in the world is different, whether it be abilities or interests, and that the way she is, is perfect anyway.

    • Absolutely, Tammy! I think everyone has their own perspective depending on their particular situation. It is just one of those parenting decisions – I see both sides for sure! Thanks for sharing your perspective; it helps all of us to see this journey from every possible angle!

  3. Such wonderful words to help others understand! My son is confused and irritated by the reminder that he’s gifted. He doesn’t understand how that fact matches his challenges. Honestly, it took me a whole to understand that too 🙂

    • It is difficult for parents and kids to understand – it is so complex, isn’t it? And even more difficult for our gifted kids to understand! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  4. I agree. Feeling different and constantly expressing those feelings caused me to talk to my youngest about how gifted kids ARE different. Though everyone is different, it gave my son permission to be himself. It helped him see how he fits in… in his own way and give him some perspective of why other kids his age act differently.

    • Lisa, yes, it gives them permission to be themselves! We waited too long to let our son know.

      It wasn’t until he was in 6th grade (new school) and he had gone and complained to his teacher and principal that they had made a mistake and placed him in remedial Math. He realized he knew all that was being taught and he was honestly convinced he was in remedial Math. Complaining to his teacher and principal that they had made a mistake and placed him in “remedial” Math only garnered him the reputation as arrogant and a “know it all.” He was in regular Math all along! (He wasn’t allowed in advanced Math because he had been homeschooled the year before)

      Thanks for sharing your perspective and experience!

  5. Thanks for your thoughts on this! Although son knows about GHF, I’ve never really told him he is “gifted”… We use asynchronous a lot at home, which I guess is just another term. 🙂

    • Asynchronous is definitely a good term. We are all different as individuals, as parents, and as families; what works for one or some, may not work for all. But what is true for all of us is that the more we know and the more perspectives we see, the better armed we will be when we have to make those tough decisions! Thanks for sharing your use of the word asynchronous; that is a really good idea!

  6. Oh, Celi. THANK YOU. Thank you so much. I spent *decades* wondering what was wrong with me, why I was different, how come nobody liked me… I had several years I wanted to die it was so awful, but nobody believed me, and the only reason I didn’t die was because I was scared that would be awful, too. Tell your children. Please. Give them the reason they’re different, don’t let them make one up for themselves. Any reason is armor for these kids, and having a reason while I was being bullied, picked on, “toughened up”… It would have saved a lot of heartache and misery.

    • No, Care, THANK YOU, for sharing your story and telling us all the very real “down side” to not telling your children that they are gifted!

  7. It was a huge relief to our youngest who always felt so different from his age peers to find out the reason at the age of 5.
    And the way he found out was by reading an academic article titled “Should you tell your child they are gifted?” over my shoulder and then asking me about it!

    • Oh, Jo! I could just picture him reading that article and quizzing you on it! That is so awesome! Thanks for sharing that story! Still giggling!

  8. My eldest is only 5 years old but I think he somehow notices that he is different from kids his age. I try to tell him that we do things differently in our home or in our family. I have not told him directly that it’s because he is a gifted child. But I think I will in time.

    I agree with you that it’s better to tell them. It will help them understand themselves better. I don’t want him to become depressed because he could not find answers to what he is feeling and thinking. I think knowing that you are gifted will answer a lot of questions. I know… I only discovered that I am gifted when I was already trying to understand my own son. I was a relief. I got to accept and understand myself more. I want to give that gift to my child as well. I want him to be happy being different… because that’s how God made him.

    • Teresa, thank you for sharing so well your thoughts about your son! So beautifully written. Yes, giftedness is a double-edged sword – that we should have to wonder about telling our child that the differences he feels in comparison to his peers is because of intellectual giftedness…a gift that sometimes hurts. Enjoy your journey with your gifted son!

  9. I have 3 children with asynchronous development challenges, primarily socially. One is very good with math and music, the other math and writing, and the third with insight, personal knowledge she can’t always explain but is WAY beyond her years. She struggles the most with how other kids perceive her, wanting them to like her, but knowing she does not let them see the deep side of herself because they probably wouldn’t appreciate it as an adult would and then she’d be frustrated. She’s a tween and struggles with how to be an adult in a kid body. She knows she is different/gifted but wishes other kids appreciated it more.

    • Twinmom, I can relate to having a child who is an adult in a child’s body. This is such a difficult situation because, you are right, same-age peers don’t appreciate the child’s adult reasoning, social and intellectual skills. From my experience, mine was the child who needed the most advocacy and support from me and my husband.

      Thanks for sharing your experience with your own children.

  10. The last comment by Twinmom about a child with adult perception has been my experience with my daughter, also a tween. We used to call her “high maintenance” before finding out about giftedness less than a year ago. So much heartache and wasted time could have been avoided if we had figured it out earlier. And I am 100% positive that had we been able to talk about it with her early she would have welcomed the knowledge with the adult understanding she has and it would have been a deep comfort to her. I think she would have been able to use it to temper reactions and understand herself, based on how well she did with other info I was able to give her.

    As it is, (at nearly 13) she merely uses the term “gifted” to label the things she has learned to dislike about herself – her sensitivity, intensity, intelligence and accomplishment (she has always been very aware that it is uncool amongst peers to be a high achiever yet feels driven to it and finds what public identity she has in that). The pressure she feels to maintain that image was very hard on her while in school and had so many worrisome side effects that I finally took her out for grade 6 to homeschool, which led eventually to me seeing the link between her many difficult and draining behaviours and school/intelligence.

    Are there any resources (aside from full-on therapy) that could help her heal? So much of the time it feels like I’m dealing with a jaded, world-weary retiree!

    • Lorienne,

      So much of what you have described has been my own experience with one of my gifted sons–yes, “a jaded, world-weary retiree!” What I have found helpful was to make sure he was involved in groups, teams and activities which interested him and involved using his talents and strengths. These situations gave him the opportunity to freely be who he was. Also, we were lucky enough to stumble upon two mentors who were involved in both his robotics team and the local maker space–his two favorite activities. The robotics team, the maker space and the mentors have been a tremendous help. I’m a firm believer that positive, engaging situations and environments can help heal our kids.

      I hope this helps!

  11. I have just turned 15 yo less than two months ago. I have never been told that I am gifted or heard people around me discussing about it. And I have only discovered about this whole gifted thing early 2015 on my own. I have read a lot of articles throughout the year and it’s only last month that I can finally confirm that I am gifted.

    To be honest, knowing that fact would have saved me from feeling constantly misjudged, kind of isolated, lonely, angry at myself and others and extremely upset of myself, because everything that had happened always makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me, that I have to be fixed.

    Growing up in my country, giftedness isn’t very widely discussed. Without independent researches, I’m afraid most gifted kids would continually question their oddity and why they don’t fit in. Before this, even I think have the idea that gifted kids are the nationally-famous math whizzes and little inventors who are plain geniuses. Others in between are misfits who seem to belong nowhere here. There is only ONE institution that supports gifted education and thus the school is very elite.There are about three tests to be taken and a school-holiday camp to be attended before you will get accepted into the school. 2015 was the first year I did complete the super-long, tedious test because apparently it’s my last chance because of the age-restriction. I passed the test and took the second one, which I sort of half-passed but I know better than to keep my hopes up high because of the very low acceptance-rate. It saddens me that my country still has a long way to go in education department.

    As for my parents, I think they have never suspected of me being gifted, because of the national notion of little Einsteins.

    Sorry for my rants, but people like you are what children and teens like us need.

    • I’m sorry for your rough road your giftedness has you on, but please remember that you are wonderfully different. Yeah, I know that is a cliche and not so simple to just start living that way, but really, there is no one “box” we all fit in–there really is no normal. Embrace your own normal, be your own advocate and believe in yourself. There is nothing wrong with you.

      I have a 16 year old gifted teen and he has had many of the same experiences as you. I have encouraged him with the same sentiments–just be yourself, and accept and love who you are. Don’t try to fit into boxes others think all of us should fit into. Giftedness is just different.

      Be strong and keep in touch! <3

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