Given the fact that you are reading this particular article, I’m assuming you have a gifted child. And, if that child is biologically related to you, it’s a fair bet that you are gifted, as well. And I wonder, do you claim that as part of your identity? Are you comfortable acknowledging your own intelligences and talents? Have your talked to your child about your experiences being a gifted adult and what it was like to be a gifted child back in the days of your youth? I know they’d be shocked to hear that schools even existed back in your day, but it’s worth a conversation!
I once attended a gifted conference and the keynoter asked anyone with a gifted child to raise their hand. Nearly every hand in the auditorium shot up. He then asked anyone who they, themselves, was gifted to raise their hand. Only about a quarter of the hands shot up. But, seriously. A child’s giftedness doesn’t usually fall from out of the clear blue sky. There’s a correlation between parents’ intelligence and children’s intelligence. And, we tend to enter relationships with people who are within the same IQ range as we are.
For some reason, it often feels more comfortable to acknowledge our child’s giftedness than our own. This might partially be due to our own childhood experiences. It might be due to an internalized anti-intellectualism, imposter syndrome, insecurity in our own identities. Or maybe you were unaware that you were gifted until you started learning more about how to parent your gifted child and resonated, personally, with the things you were reading. Or maybe you were identified as gifted, but no one ever explained what that means, so you’ve never really claimed it for yourself.
Whatever the reason, most parents I work with will gladly discuss parenting strategies and ways to understand their gifted child, but they laugh nervously and begin to squirm as soon as I reflect their own intelligence and intensities.
Why do I bring this up? Like it or not, our kids learn more from what we model than what we say. They learn how to take care of themselves by watching how we take care of ourselves. They learn how to treat other people by watching how we treat other people. And they learn how to claim their identity by watching how we claim our identity.
Over and over parents enter my therapy office with the one request that I help their gifted child feel comfortable in their own skin, to accept and embrace their differently wired selves. And, yes, us therapists can help with this. And books and proper psycho-education and time with intellectual peers can help with this. But, honestly, the number one way to help your child claim his or her identity and embrace the good and bad of their unique wiring, is to show them how you embrace your own unique wiring. Model self-acceptance, self-compassion, and self-advocacy. Stop squirming when someone points out how smart you are. Claim your intelligence and talents. Show them how you regulate the challenges of your intense life and build on the joys of your intensities. Show them that giftedness is nothing to be hidden.
And when a keynoter asks who in the audience is gifted, proudly raise your hand.
If you'd like more ways to embrace our life as a gifted adult, check out Paula Prober's book, "Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth."