At the recent SENG conference in Milwaukee a father asked a heartfelt question, “Should I tell my child she's gifted?”
It’s something a lot of parents and teachers struggle with, but my answer is a resounding, “Yes!” And when we talk to our kids about their exceptional abilities we must make it a long, complete, on-going conversation about what that means. Remember the number one gripe of the gifted kids surveyed by Galbraith and Delisle? "No one explains what being gifted is all about - it's kept a big secret."
So, yes, we must talk to our children about their giftedness. To paraphrase Carol Anne Tomlinson, if we pretend that all children are gifted, that all have the same abilities, then our children will think we're stupid. They are well aware that they are different, but they often lack the self-reflection or even the vocabulary to describe the ways they feel different.
Here, in no particular order, are things we should include in that conversation:
- You are better at some things than others your age, but of course that doesn’t mean you’re better than they are.
- Being gifted is not what you do, but who you are.
- Being gifted is not how well you do in school or what you become some day or what you can contribute to society, but a unique set of characteristics you will have for all your life.
- There are many ways to be gifted and gifted people are not all alike.
- You have a combination of exceptional abilities; some are intellectual, academic, creative, artistic, or leadership gifts - a mixture that is different for every gifted person.
- You have definite strengths but you also have underdeveloped areas that need some work.
- Being gifted means you may often have different educational needs than some of your classmates. Every brain needs to be challenged in order to grow and you can help your teachers and parents know when the challenge feels right, when it’s too tough and when it’s too easy.
- Because you’re gifted you may experience life very Intensely. You may have overexcitabilities (more here.)
- Being gifted is a good thing. It doesn’t mean your life will always be easy, but it is part of what makes you uniquely wonderful.