Giftedness can have a significant impact on family dynamics. If there is more than one gifted person in the family, this can mean that you have multiple people with specific needs that may not always fit together well. This has been the case in our family and we’ve had to figure out how to effectively navigate the various individual needs.
When we started navigating these challenges, we didn’t even realize Caroline was gifted. In retrospect, the giftedness was clearly there as evidenced by video from the hospital after she was born. But we weren’t “looking” for it so it wasn’t obvious to us that’s what we were dealing with. As is the case with most twice-exceptional children, a learning challenge (such as dysgraphia) can mask giftedness. We had realized many things about our daughter being highly sensitive and spirited, but it took longer to connect the dots about giftedness.
Accommodating the Needs of a Young Gifted Child
Our parenting philosophy was such that the younger our daughter was, the more we accommodated her needs and sacrificed our own. In retrospect regarding the giftedness aspect, this was a huge blessing and I’m so thankful for a number of people God put in my path who encouraged me to parent in this way.
One fact that I came back to time and again when Caroline was tiny was the idea that abstract reasoning doesn’t really kick in until around age eight. Abstract reasoning is such an integral part of being an adult that it’s easy to forget that young children don’t have the same ability. We had to remind ourselves time and again that she couldn’t understand what was driving her intense emotions, etc. so it was up to us to deal with them on her behalf.
How did this impact me as a gifted woman? It impacted me a great deal. So many of my own needs were basically pushed aside for the first four years. Was it ideal? No, it was not. I don’t believe I was a healthy person in many ways during those years. I knew at the time the toll it was taking on me, but I really had no choice. It was up to me as the adult to cope as best I could and know that the season would come to an end as Caroline matured. For the longest time I recited the litany to hang on until age four since many people encouraged me that a big shift occurs around age four. I held on and they were right. Things became exponentially easier around age four.
Gifted Children Owning Their Giftedness
As she has gotten older, we’ve talked more about how we are each wired and what we need. We talk about how we all have strengths and weaknesses. We each have struggles. We’ve emphasized that it is about how our brains and bodies are wired.
One of the transformational moments in my parenting journey was when Caroline was old enough to understand my need for time alone and did not see it as a rejection of her (or David). It was like the heavens parted and angels sang. I felt my life move into a completely different trajectory in that one moment. When she could understand the idea that people’s bodies and brains work in different ways and that mine requires quiet time alone every single day, our relationship changed in some significant ways.
At that moment it went from me accommodating her unique needs to her more fully understanding that there is a give and take in family life. When she understood that basic truth, we were able to begin relating to each other on a different level. I also think her understanding that I am different and have specific needs makes it easier for her to understand her own unique needs and challenges. I can talk with her about some of the unique ways I am wired that make my life great and some of the ways that make my life more difficult. She sees me working out how to live with it all and I hope it helps her not feel so alone since being gifted can be a lonely journey.
We are still a long way from being done in our gifted family journey. We will certainly face more challenges ahead as we try to sort out how to best educate our gifted/2e daughter while still navigating my own needs as a gifted woman. As Caroline gets older, we will expect her to take more responsibility for managing her own gifted traits and helping us find continued balance as a family. It is easier now, but I don’t think parenting a gifted child as a gifted adult will ever be easy. That’s the reality of giftedness in a family.
For now I’m thankful that we’re at a point where we can discuss these things and she gets it to at least some degree. I’m thankful that she understands we are completely for her and that we want to see her flourish as a young lady who is uniquely wired.
I loved your post — the part about a parent’s needs getting pushed aside really resonated. I wish more parenting books (including gifted parenting books) discussed that! I am glad you are able to discuss it now, and I love the phrase “uniquely wired.” Thank you for understanding and sharing your wisdom. 🙂
Thanks, Emily! I also wrote about how giftedness impacts the parents in Adjusting Expectations as the Parent of a Gifted Child. This has been a big issue for me to work through. 🙂
Love this! Especially the part “I knew at the time the toll it was taking on me, but I really had no choice.” I can really relate to this as we’re at that point in our lives – just hanging on and hoping. Thank you for sharing your journey, and giving me hope that perhaps we’ll make it past this point too.
Your post reminded me of how much easier things have got since my kids got a bit older. Each age brings its own challenges, of course, but looking back – goodness, I wouldn’t go back! Those early years I lived in a fog.
As you say, teaching our gifted kids to be aware of their different neurological wiring is a great opportunity to talk about our own needs. And of course modelling self-care is key both to a happy, balanced home and happy, balanced children!
This is such a personal, thoughtful article, it will certainly help many families who struggle with similar issues and challenges, while providing hope and encouragement as well. Thanks for sharing your story!
This: “old enough to understand my need for time alone and did not see it as a rejection of her.” As we grow our little gifted family, I am exceedingly grateful for how analytical my children are at such a young age…
4 is beautiful, isn’t it?! With our 2nd and 3rd kids we also had the mantra was “we just need to make it to 4”. I loved the reminder that it is so easy to imagine a child is thinking things through in the same way that adults are. Such an important thing to keep mindful of! Thanks for your post.