In understanding the learning characteristics of the gifted or high-ability learner, it is important to understand that being gifted generally also influences social and emotional development. This may mean they behave in ways that are more socially and emotionally mature than their age peers.
It can also mean gifted children may have some challenging behaviours and/or try to hide being gifted. Gifted children generally display some, but not all, of the following:
- natural abilities as a leader and choosing to take that role
- a preference to mix with children older than themselves, displaying mature concepts and expectations of friendship. This can include a noticeably sophisticated sense of humour that assists their integration into this older group of friends
- heightened sensitivity and or intensity. This can be sometimes misinterpreted as emotional immaturity
- an ability to deeply empathise with the feelings of others
- an advanced level of awareness of what is fair and just
- an interest in reading that gravitates to material requiring a deep emotional understanding.
Helping your child cope with their feelings
These social and emotional characteristics mean a gifted child often experiences their world in a very intense way and their reactions to experiences or issues may be heightened.
Dramatic life experiences can be a source of deep emotions. These could include death of a loved person or pet, finding and/or losing a friend, difficulties within a friendship, or family turmoil.
You should accept the authenticity of your child’s feelings and help them find techniques to calm themselves following such experiences. You may also need to communicate this characteristic to teachers, and explain how your family helps them cope with their feelings.
Some gifted children may also suffer from a conflict between whether to develop their talents or be part of their peer group. Some can choose to blend in with their peers so successfully that they do not stand out from the group. This can be particularly evident in gifted girls or for gifted young people in rural communities and may be more evident as they move into secondary education.
Where this occurs, adult guidance is required to encourage a sense of belonging and development of their potential.