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Connecting w/ Gifted & Talented Teens

Every child is unique and thereby create challenges that are specific to them. In this blog I want to share how we dealt with our youngest daughter who was tested as gifted and talented due to her exceptionally high IQ. Associated with her high IQ and/or personality, she had a natural inclination to mask her most sensitive feelings, or deflect you from finding out more about her most inner thoughts than she wanted you to know.

Over the years I have talked to many parents with similarly talented teens with respective masking and deflecting traits, but unfortunately they did not "get in front" of situations to effectively influence the challenges that often are associated with children with those characteristics. My hope is reading some of my experiences can shed light and offer techniques that perhaps you can apply as you navigate the teenage years.

Each example in this blog is associated with my youngest daughter, because in doing basic research when she was younger, I found that children with high IQs often struggle with emotional intelligence. Meaning, high IQ children's natural ability to pick up social queues and fully connect with their (and others) emotions is difficult. In my layman's view, I had to invest in developing my daughter's social skills so they did not negatively affect her as a young adult.

And help develop her social attributes is what I did, in a general sense. In order to help her I had to effectively communicate with her. What I consider shallow communicating with her was easy - talking about classes, sports, interactions with friends, television shows and movies. Those were commonplace and natural, but that is not the depth I sought with either of my girls. I wanted to know their fears, perceived weaknesses, aspirations and associated concerns with achieving them. I was interested in their beliefs, perceptions and understandings (accurate or inaccurate) about friendships, society and history. To get to that level of depth I needed them to talk with me, to share with me and to trust that disclosing such details is to their benefit.

That goal demanded persistence, patience, time and energy from me. It meant I had to essentially probe the areas she was masking from me, or deflecting when I brought up certain subjects. When she deftly half answered a question to orient in another direction, I had to remain on topic and ask the same question differently until I got the associated answer. This was a common scenario when dealing with the more sensitive topics. Therefore, the more guarded she became, the more persistent and creative I had to be. I had enough success that I could help her in areas she would otherwise have dealt with either in isolation or with peers (who were not as knowledgeable).

Another developmental area was teaching her how to deal with social situations appropriately. This required similar persistence and varying approaches to get my points across. As the situations arose throughout school or sports, typically with her peers, we had to explain what we believed was appropriate and why we felt (when applicable) what she did was inappropriate. The challenge was getting her to appreciate the commonality in different situations. Though there would be a common construct, and therefore a similar reaction, she often viewed each as discrete and completely different scenarios. Which made it more difficult for her to grasp the lesson to be learned and apply that lesson more broadly.

It was challenging at times, and in the short term often did not appear as effective, but after 8-9 years of "working" on it, her ability to comfortably function in most social situations is no longer a concern.

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