Monday, May 24, 2010

Social and Emotional Issues: Part 2

We talked last week about some of the signs that your child may be gifted, based on their social and emotional tendencies when compared with their age level peers.

The bigger question, now that you have identified some of your concerns, is what to do about it. . .

I'd like to talk a little bit about bibliotherapy this week. Your child may already have retreated into books, and that might worry you. While we want gifted children (and all children) to form meaningful attachments to people around them and build interpersonal relationships, we also cannot discredit the importance of bibliotherapy.

This may be a term unfamiliar to you, as it was to me prior to joining the ranks of gifted educators. It simply means using books as tools of therapy for children. This tactic is especially helpful with students who are gifted. They have a better understanding of the abstract as well as an ability to extrapolate from hypothetical to actual situations.

As a parent, while you can't make friends for you child, you can help them to build their skills and expand their repertoire of experiences. One of the ways to build their experiences is through books. While your child can't go through every experience (and we certainly wouldn't want them to!), we can expose them through literature.

Let me give an example. Several years ago, I taught a student with Asperbergers. I knew before the school year that I would have this student, and I wanted to establish a supportive and understanding community. At the beginning of the school year, we did a book unit on the book Loser by Jerry Spinelli. The book chronicles the life a student with Asperbergers throughout his school year. Through reading the book together, we were able to talk through situations that might present themselves and hypothesize how we should each act in those situations. The book was critical in helping to establish a classroom where everyone could feel accepted and valued for themselves.

You could use this in your own home to talk about issues you want your child to understand. I always recommend that you preread a book before you read it together in order to make sure the content is appropriate for your personal family choices, and that you are prepared to answer questions your child might have. Here are several examples of books you might use and how:

On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
This book talks about two young boys who lie to their parents and the consequences. You could use this book to discuss honesty, peer pressure, and parental oversight.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
This is a great book to introduce the ideas of prejudice and social injustice. You can talk through many issues with your child as you determine what you feel about people's differences and how we relate to each other.

The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman
This is a great book to read with a daughter. You can spark excellent conversations about rising up from one's circumstances, the importance of perseverance and the fortitude of the human spirit.

These are just a few examples of ways you can use books to spark conversation and help connect with your child and talk through important issues. There are many, many books in the world just waiting to spark a conversation!

If you think your child is having a particular issue, I really recommend finding a book that is related to that issue and reading it together with your child. You may find your child is more willing to discuss the character and their challenges, as opposed to wanting to openly discuss their own concerns.

Please let me know if you have other questions about bibliotherapy as a strategy for helping gifted students with social and emotional concerns or if you would like me to recommend a specific book.

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