Making friends in school can be extremely difficult. When our young children come home upset that they are not connecting with their friends, that can really be tough. I offer as much advice as I can to smooth things over but age, maturity, her friends personalities and different life experiences can play a huge part in how she is getting along. It’s easy for children to spot differences in their friends as much as we would not like to admit it, and this can lead to a lot of emotional stress for our little ones. Let’s face it I have had over 30 years to come to terms with the idea that some people are just too hard to get along with. My daughter, not so much.
My heart breaks for children who face challenges on top of their regular school day. The stress of school alone is enough without worrying about being accepted by their peers. The worst is when children have extra challenges in their life that are out of their control. I have witnessed firsthand the disconnect that some children feel in the classroom. Some children have poor economic backgrounds, others struggle with language, some may suffer from autism and others may not fit in because of something like a high IQ.
It seems quite ridiculous to mention the difficulties that come with having a “gifted” child. As if all parents could be so lucky. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am extremely proud of my daughter, the hard work she puts in, and her gifted abilities. I wouldn’t change it for the world. The one thing that is hardly talked about is the stress that being “gifted” puts on a child whether they know they are gifted or not.
I do know a lot of parents put extreme amount of pressure for their children to perform at a very high-level. Although I encourage my daughter always to do her best, I have never pushed her further than her own abilities. She definitely has gotten to her gifted status all on her own.
Fortunately for her, she does not have the added pressure and stress of me expecting her to perform on a level that she is not comfortable with. However the tough part for a parent of a gifted child is that they can find social situations extremely difficult.
Intellectually they may be much smarter than their peers, but socially they can often have a hard time creating positive relationships with their friends. Children that are gifted sometimes are much more comfortable with older children, or even adults.
I know my daughter sometimes can struggle with her friends on the playground, as she doesn’t have any interest playing “normal “playground games. My daughter wants to create imaginary lands all around her, though defined by her own imagination and need to control the play. Though she is exhibiting real leadership qualities, it certainly doesn’t help her to Establish friendships. Many days, my daughter has come home upset not because of the challenges of schoolwork, but the challenges of navigating the social aspect of her classes. Being told that you can’t play with your friends at six years old is very hard to deal with. She knows that she is different, and her friends seem to take note of it as well.
It is extremely important for parents and their teachers to nurture the social and emotional development of a gifted child. Fortunately our daughter has a teacher that is not only aware of her gifted status but also works very well with the children. Not only does she help my daughter learn the concepts in class as far as education goes, but she is aware of the social struggle gifted children can face.
When we found out our daughter tested in the gifted range we were extremely pleased. We carefully navigated what we talked about with her to make sure that she not only understood and was proud of herself, but that we also didn’t impose any unrealistic expectations. The last thing we wanted to do was to stress her out. Fortunately for us, she told us she already knew that she was different. She said that she could tell all along that she was moving along at a different pace. This was both heartwarming and heartbreaking to hear. Now, we never have pressured her it did bring to our attention that we really could do a little more as far as nurturing her social and emotional development. We were so used to her just being one of us, that we sometimes forget that she is a child.
Here are some tips I have learned for helping your child engage in positive social interactions, gifted or not. We have to teach our children most of these skills and be a positive and consistent role model when it comes to sharing them.
1. Encourage positive friendships with your child. It is not the number of friends you have, it is the quality of them. Although I know it is nice to be liked by everyone, that just isn’t realistic.
2. Encourage your child to join activities or clubs where they might meet people that are like them. Take note of what their interests are or what they are talented in and encourage them to take part in activities that nurture these interests. Bonus points if the clubs are through the school. That can help them build friendships that are strong through the classroom setting as well.
3. Be a good listener. It’s very easy to brush aside the social problems your child may be having. But please remember if a friend in class says to your child that they are not allowed to join the games, it can be extremely detrimental to how they feel about their school experience. Really listen to them and relate to their experiences. Be realistic but also have empathy for their situation.
4: If your child is gifted or has a special need, hopefully you were able to place them in a school or classroom that accommodates them. We quickly found out that placing our daughter in a gifted school would be one of the best things we could do for her socially and for her education both.
5. Give praise to your child when they deserve it. Make sure they know exactly how special you think they are. We found that it was appropriate to let our daughter know that she is a “gift” student as soon as we found out. It helped her process what exactly made her feel so different from her peers and allowed her to digest what would be in store for her in the future.
6. Most of all just love, except, and encourage your child. School is hard no matter what your circumstances, and social life can be an absolute hell for children that feel like they don’t fit in. If your child is having social problems that you cannot work your way through at home, make their teacher aware if they are not already. Talk to the school or administrators and see if they can give you any advice. Especially if your child is an only child, it’s very important to help nurture them socially.
I can’t say it enough though, the most important thing you can do as a parent is just unconditionally love, support, and respect your child and they will make it just fine.