The start of the school year is often preoccupied with anxiety for gifted children. One of the primary concerns is in making friends. Whether moving to a new school, moving to a new classroom or being rearranged into new classrooms from old peers, this transition can cause serious emotional angst.
Gifted children tend to have more difficulty making friends. They are intellectually advanced compared to their grade level peers, however they are often slightly less socially and emotionally developed than their age mates (see my thoughts on asynchronous development in previous posts for more on this anomaly).
What can you as a parent do to aid your child in making and keeping friends? I have compiled a few helpful suggestions.
- Don't offer quick fixes. Making friends is hard. Period, full stop. It takes time, patience and a healthy dose of providence. It is not as simple as telling your child to invite a friend over for a play date or to just be nice to everyone. Simple platitudes are going to distance your child from yourself and make them even more isolated than they already feel. Don't pressure your child into making friends, or try to find friends for them. It is an awful feeling for an elementary school child to realize that their moms are making them be friends. . .
- Encourage your child to become involved. Think of the friendships you have grown over the years. There foundation can usually be found in shared experiences. The same is true for children forming friendships.
- Practice social skills. Gifted children often struggle with social interactions. Help your child be aware of certain behaviors that are more conducive to making friends. Practice regulating your volume (many gifted kids have trouble with this). Experiment with learning about personal space. Role play how to call a friend. Pretend to have a conversation with someone you meet at a club. These are life skills that do not come as easily to gifted kids as do math, reading and writing. But they are no less important in achieving success in life.
- Be supportive. The most important way you can help your child is to care. Listen to their concerns. Sympathize over missed opportunities to attend events. Validate their emotions with a simple "I'm sorry. I know how hard that is." This will do wonders to grow your own relationship with your child as they struggle to navigate this difficult experience.