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Raising a Gifted Child Isn't Always a Gift

Photograph by Twenty20

Lots of people think that raising a gifted child must be a ride on easy street. I mean what could be hard about having an extra-smart kid, right? But many gifted kids struggle with other issues that make their daily lives difficult—and it can be very challenging to navigate the school years with your gifted child.

So what are some of the struggles they face, and how can you help?

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Social

Your daughter might be able to carry on an intense conversation about invertebrates with the woman behind you at the grocery store, but her social experiences with peers might be a different story. There is often a disconnect between the mental "age" and the social maturity of a gifted child. These differences can be hard for other people to understand since the gifted child seems so grown up in terms of language and reasoning skills.

Feeling left out of the social scene with peers leaves many gifted children feeling confused, especially those who are very black-and-white thinkers. "I was nice to Thomas, why wasn't he nice back?" It can be gut-wrenching trying to analyze and coach your child's friendships from the sidelines, especially as they move into middle school.

How to help: Try social skills groups, role-playing at home, organized play dates with a set end time, organized activities like Cub Scouts or coding. Try to work with your child's strengths and interests, and you will find like-minded peers more likely to become friends.

Emotional

Overly sensitive kids also run the risk of being misdiagnosed as having ADHD, bipolar disorder or other issues when they are simply overwhelmed by their emotions.

As with social skills, the emotional maturity of gifted children often lags behind both their mental and physical age. A nasty comment or shove on the playground can turn into a huge thing—possibly involving tears—for a gifted child. Many gifted children just have a harder time dealing with the intensities and complexities of emotions and emotional interactions. Termed "asynchronous development" this gap between mental and emotional abilities can be difficult to overcome. Overly sensitive kids also run the risk of being misdiagnosed as having ADHD, bipolar disorder or other issues when they are simply overwhelmed by their emotions.

How to help: Role playing at home can be helpful. Help your child develop a rating scale for her feelings so that she can learn to judge her own emotions when you aren't around. Encourage him to feel whatever emotion he is feeling while helping him see that others might not feel it with the same intensity that he does.

Academic

Wait, how can there be any academic problems when your child is gifted? Many gifted children also struggle with a learning disability, a condition often referred to as twice exceptional, or 2e. In addition to a higher capacity for reasoning and learning these children might also be dealing with ADHD, dyslexia, auditory processing disorders, sensory issues, Asperger's syndrome or a host of other challenges. Advocating for your child through IEP meetings, teacher conferences and calls from the principal's office can become an all-consuming process. At the heart of it all is a child who needs to learn just as much as his classmates, but possibly with a few accommodations.

How to help: While it's easy to ignore the academic challenges when your gifted child is young, it's really important to stay on top of things so that your child doesn't get lost in the shuffle. If your child needs accommodations in order to succeed in her school environment, make sure you have the proper evaluations and pediatrician's recommendations to support her needs. Stay in close contact with your child's teachers, therapists and other professionals to ensure that everything your child needs to succeed is in place.

RELATED: 16 Practical Life Skills We Forget to Teach Our Kids

Raising gifted children isn't always easy. But with a bit of planning (and trial and error) you can help them get the most out of their school years—and beyond.

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