Sunday, January 24, 2010

Super Sunday Series - Friendship - Week 2

Welcome back to the Super Sunday Series, where I talk about the many facets of giftedness in your children and how to best help them.  If you have a question or a topic you would like to read about, please leave it in the comments.  Thanks so much!  This week is the second week of Friendship.  Last week, I gave you several resources to read. 

How do Gifted Kids make, and more importantly, keep friends? 

"Peer relations can be a challenging balancing act as relationships progress through different stages . . . [g]ifted children, by definition, are different from the norm, and this undoubtedly influences their relationships with others in many ways."
A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children, Page 188.

This quote, from my gifted Bible, the Parent's Guide to Gifted Children, sums it all up for me.  Childhood and adolescent friendships can be a challenge under any circumstances.  When you add giftedness into the mix, a whole new layer of complexity occurs. 

Let's face it.  Gifted children, at their worst, can be arrogant, bossy, rude, intense little perfectionists who can't read social cues.  They can be riddled with contradictions and self-doubt because they want to make friends but have no idea how to do it. 

Friendship is so important, however.  Even the biggest introvert needs to have someone they can call friend.  And we, as their parents, need to help them, or create pathways to friendship as much as possible.  We can't assume they'll "figure it out" or "get it."  For all of their brilliance, friend making is an area where they can have big challenges. 

And in our house, this talk couldn't come at a better time.  Oldest has been crying daily over her feeling of not having any friends.  She bawled all the way home this past Wednesday, asking to be home-schooled because of her feeling of being "poked at" and "bossed around" at school (her words).  From what I can gather, she feels like kids won't leave her alone in the classroom (making it look like she does, indeed, have firiends), but that outside, kids are bossy and insist on doing the games "by their rules, and don't listen to her at all."  And really, whether she "has" friends or not, she FEELS like she doesn't right now, and it's tearing her up.  Which means it's tearing me up. 

Finding Friends

The book Good Friends are Hard to Find makes a strong case for how families today don't "make time" for friendships to develop.  Whether it's from work obligations, over-scheduled kids or other commitments, children don't seem to have a lot of "time" to develop friendships.  Page 9.  The author, Fred Frankel, suggests that you make a list of the times your child is available for friendship growth.  He says to take into consideration things like dinner hour and that weekends have more time built in. 

In our house, for example, "friendship development" COULD occur on Mondays (4-6), Thursdays (4-6), Fridays (4-6), Saturdays (2-5) or Sundays (noon -5).  That's a total of 14 hours/week.  So we definitely have "windows of opportunity." 

Both books, A Parent's Guide and Good Friends are Hard to Find suggest "places to look" for friends for your child.  I'm relying on the Parent's Guide's more expansive view.  According to the Guide, gifted children often find friendships with older children, or even adults.  As a matter of fact, your gifted child may have different friends for different skill levels. 

Oldest, for example, may develop friendships with children younger in gymnastics because she's at the same level as beginners.  Many children her age have moved onto the intermediate level, so her "peer group" in that instance might be a younger child.  Conversely, in her Suzuki Piano lesson group, she has connected with several children older than she is - in part because she aspires to play like them. 

The Guide to Gifted Children stresses that a person shouldn't limit their gifted child's choices based on location or age, which contradicts Good Friends are Hard to Find.  Good Friends encourages looking for friends in local groups and playgrounds. 

My thought is that for gifted kids, looking only at local groups and playgrounds will pose some challenges because gifted kids may not find "peers," only kids who are their age (which doesn't necessarily equal a peer for a gifted child).

This week let's start by Finding Friends.  Determine what your "windows" are for playdates and write it down.  Then think about all of the places or activities your child is a part of so that you can start thinking about possible friendship opportunities.  In our lives, for example, we could look at school, gymnastics, piano, our street or at a writing class Oldest just joined.  As I listed above, she has 14 hours a week of playdate time. 

And from personal experience, I say it's OK to be choosy on your child's behalf.  If your gifted child has intensity, perfectionism, difficulty with self-control, it's OK not to welcome poor friendship choices into his/her life.  Please don't think that a series of posts about finding friends means you should take anyone who comes along.  I'll touch on this more in a couple of weeks. 

For an inspiring look at several gifted parents, educators and advocates talking about something that impacts this very subject (the social and emotional needs of gifted children), take a look at this transcript from Friday's #gtchat on Twitter.  The best way to watch is with your pause button.  Well worth it.  One of my favorite quotes - "help your Gifted Child find his/her tribe."  Powerful, isn't it?  And so important.

So, next week, let's talk about Making Friends.  And do you have any ideas about Finding Friends that I've missed?  Please share - we can all help each other. 

***In the writing of this post, I realized that trying to cover Finding, Making, AND Keeping Friends in one post is a little much. I want to be able to do all of these topics justice and keep you all interested (ie: not make them too terribly long).***

Tomorrow - Happiness - week 4.
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