Uncertainty is an inescapable truth of the human condition. Especially in times of upheaval, not knowing what tomorrow brings can even be difficult for adults to cope with. And as parents, the changes in routine, restrictions on travel and goods, sensational news stories, and rumors all clearly point to trying times for our young people.
Your family may be experiencing many different feelings and responses in these uncertain times, especially when questions may be hard to answer. Fear of what may happen, generalized anger, powerlessness and depression — all of these feelings are intensified by the unique aspects of a gifted psyche.
The gifted mind experiences such feelings with a greater intensity and these same feelings can linger in the brain when answers to uncertainties cannot easily be found. Lost sleep, emotional outbursts, and irritability are understandable reactions to such powerful stressors. While there are myriad suggestions and resources out there, let’s talk about some things that we can count on:
1. They absorb more than you think they do.
As with any major world event, media coverage will provide a constant stream of content related to the crisis at hand. However, overexposure or underexposure to such stimuli can cause an anxious gifted mind to catastrophize and extrapolate ‘nightmare’ scenarios. Rather than attempting to avoid this outcome by completely cutting off intake of information, curate what sources your child views and moderate their intake. Alternatively, consider being your child’s primary source of information regarding the crisis and deliver only what you deem developmentally appropriate for your child to know. You know your child best!
2. Putting your own self-care first enables you to care for others.
In order to support your gifted child, it’s important to take care of your own emotional needs. Gifted children are highly perceptive, and will sense your anxiety or fear. The sensitive gifted child may then begin to worry more. It is ok to feel these things: while adult, we are still only human! Be proactive about managing your distress through various means of self-care. Your child will likely follow your example. In addition to setting a positive example, you will find that you are more able to fulfill your child’s emotional needs when your own emotional state is healthy and stable.
3. “Normal” will look different. For a while.
Disruptions in work and school schedules aren’t threats in and of themselves, but our minds have a tendency to seek out danger, especially in times of uncertainty. The gifted mind considers all possibilities, so it is especially good at this! Establishing a consistent routine creates a sense of stability and predictability that will make your child feel more secure and in control. Something as simple as a scheduled dinner time can give children something on which to hinge their day and keep their minds in order.
4. You can be their “rock” — be courageous!
Gifted or not, children look to adults for reassurance in times of uncertainty. Signs of agitation in adults can be interpreted by children as “things are not ok!” Do your best to be a source of calm, and provide your child with sensible information as best you can. If your child asks you questions, do your best to not shy away or avoid uncomfortable topics. Conversations about unpleasant circumstances are critical therapeutic opportunities to communicate feelings and seek catharsis. As mentioned before, a gifted mind will find — or make up — its own answers, and those are often scarier than the truth. It is better to be your child’s source of stability and information in their time of need.
You have more strength than you believe! Stay healthy, both physically and mentally.
ChildMind’s guide on talking to kids about COVID-19; also, an animated short if appropriate for your student’s age and level. Fandom, Giftedness, and Community in Uncertain Times by Susan Pedersen from Our Gifted Blog shares how her family is “managing mischief” with everyone at home.