Who are these gifted kids and teens? These are kids who enjoy expressing themselves through the arts, academics, or in other ways. I consider all children gifted, as every child has unique talents, skills, or other characteristics that they may choose to share with the world.
Sounds great, right? How wonderful it is to be so talented! Unfortunately, this world of talent can come with a dark side.
As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, I often receive notes of concern from high-functioning parents who are worried that their high-functioning kids are unmotivated and lack focus. Meanwhile, these “irresponsible children” are participating in demanding academic programs at school, engaging in extracurricular activities, and studying until midnight because they have to get their 92 grade up to a 96. Did I mention that they are also good kids who care about others?
These kids are intrinsically placing a high level of pressure on themselves only to be sometimes met with a parental message of still not being good enough. They could be better.
Now, do not get me wrong. We can all evolve as people. However, how do we balance encouraging our kids to do their best while still letting them know that we accept them for who they are now?
A good colleague of mine works with young adults with anxiety. She said to me, “Erica, your clients are my future clients.” What did she mean? If kids do not learn to accept themselves and their imperfections, then insecurities develop which carry on into adulthood.
My colleague informed me that this usually takes two forms. We may have a young adult who is now a perfectionist striving to overachieve because her worth is dependent on what she accomplishes in life. Or, we may have a young adult who feels completely paralyzed and overwhelmed with the idea that he will never be able to live up to the expectations of others, especially the expectations of his parents.
So, what do we do? Parents can ask kids what their success goals are versus placing predetermined goals onto their kids. We can ask our kids if they are happy with the outcomes of their choices versus judging their efforts. Most importantly, we can ask our kids to tell us how they would like our support versus imposing support onto them.
The goal is that we guide our kids to step into a life that they can be happy and proud to live. So, let’s start creating experiences where gifted kids can feel the self-acceptance they need to become the next generation of innovators and thought leaders.
About the Author
Erica Whitfield is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has a Masters in Counseling Psychology and over 10 years of experience working with children and adolescents. She is the Founder of Positive Development, LLC, a counseling practice for youth located in Jacksonville, Florida. Erica combines expressive therapies using art, music, physical movement and writing, with evidenced-based therapeutic modalities such as CBT, solution-focused and positive psychology approaches to help children and adolescents process past trauma, transition during difficult life adjustments, form healthier relationships, perform better in school and work through self-harming behaviors. She specializes in providing strengths-based counseling and has helped hundreds of youth unleash their capabilities, transform obstacles into opportunities and find healthy ways to express their energy and creativity.