“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’”
Finding a friend can be difficult for gifted children. For some, the issue may be asynchronous development: they may be very advanced academically but immature socially, which makes finding an intellectual peer they can also have fun with challenging. Some gifted learners may struggle with social skills or social awkwardness, and need extra support to practice skills that seem to come naturally to others. Other students may simply feel socially isolated, like they don’t blend in with other students their age.
In all of these cases, it is important to remember that friendship is more than how many turns one can take in a conversation, or whether you greet someone appropriately. The definition of friend is “a person whom one knows, likes, and trusts”; an alternate definition, however, is: “a person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause.” Friendship involves a foundation of common ground and shared interests that are important to both people.
For gifted children, finding such common ground may prove difficult in a regular education setting or with their typical peers. It is critical to find ways for gifted students to be able to interact with other gifted students, but we know this is easier said than done. For profoundly gifted students, the Davidson Young Scholars program is a way to connect with similarly abled learners, both locally and around the country. Weekend and summer workshops like The Enrichment Center and MIT Splash! are great opportunities for gifted students to meet and share common interests, even if held only a few times a year. And with email and Skype, you can encourage your child to stay in touch with the friends they make, regardless of distance.
Another approach that might be useful is helping gifted children think about having different friends for different interests or aspects of their lives. They might have chess friends, theater friends, robotics friends, philosophy friends, friends from a sports team or specific extracurricular activity. This puts the emphasis on common ground, and may allow your child’s circle of friends to expand without the pressure of having everything in common. It can also be a way of helping your child gain a more diverse group of friends.
Talking to your child directly about what it means to be a good friend, and how to practice good friendship skills, can also help; it’s important to remember that we all have to learn how to be a good friend. This includes being a good listener and showing interest in others. Gifted children, especially with same age peers, can sometimes struggle with allowing others to take the lead in play or with respecting their peers’ interests, which may not be as complex or mature as their own. Role-playing with your child may be a way for them to work out how to balance having fun and sharing their ideas with acknowledging and appreciating others.
One tool for helping talk to your child about their feelings, and their friends’ feelings, might be using Kimochis. We are very big fans of these “toys with feelings.” Each plush character has its own personality and emotions, which can be complicated. When we first learned about Kimochis, we knew we wanted to use them in our school because we know it is critical to give gifted children outlets to talk about their feelings safely; we asked the company to join our advisory board as a resource for ensuring that we address our students’ social-emotional needs as well as their academic ones.
NB: The Grayson School is an Amazon affiliate, and if you do choose to purchase Kimochis by clicking on the image you will also be supporting our school through a referral commission paid to us. You will not pay more when buying through this links.