Gifted children often face challenges
As they mature, some gifted children with extraordinarily advanced intellectual skills adjust well socially and emotionally. However, others tend to develop psychological issues including anxiety and depression because of their difficulties in dealing with their unique challenges. These challenges can be addressed effectively with instruction in the application of self-hypnosis techniques.
Challenges Facing Gifted Children
Lack of sufficient emotional maturity – Many gifted children struggle because of their awareness of experiences and ideas with which they are unable to deal well. The situation arises because even when their emotional maturity is appropriate for their chronological age, it lags their intellectual development. This often leads to the development of anxiety.
Because of their heightened awareness as compared to their peers, gifted children may struggle with thinking about the fate of the universe, the meaning of their lives or social injustice, which are not of concern to most children their age. They also may respond to subtle social cues among their friends to which their peers are oblivious, which can lead gifted children to become more easily flustered.
Perfectionism and high expectations
Gifted children find it much easier to complete tasks that challenge their peers. As a result, some of them develop the idea that they should always easily achieve a perfect solution to their challenges. Adults also set high expectations for success, which gifted children often internalize. Further, to provide their children with sufficient stimulation, some adults fill the children’s lives with many challenging activities, which add to the children’s high self-expectations.
Unfortunately, perfectionism and high expectations can lead to loss of self-esteem, development of self-doubt, and even depression. This occurs when children are unable to easily achieve their goals as they face more rigorous challenges later in life, attempt to accomplish too many challenges at once, or when they imagine inventions and creative endeavors that they are not yet able to achieve because of their young age.
When they are unable to quickly achieve their goals, gifted children often become frustrated easily. Alternatively, they may become very frustrated with the slow pace of education, and the requirement that they “show their work” in a traditional educational setting. Frustration can also ensue when gifted children have difficulty settling on an appropriate solution to a problem because they are able to conceive of multiple different answers.
Frustration can cause many children to develop behavioral problems including refusal to do their schoolwork, causing distractions in the classroom, or even developing frequent tantrums. These behavioral challenges sometimes prevent identification of these children as gifted and may even lead to their placement in educational settings for behaviorally and intellectually challenged students. Of course, such outcomes further exacerbate their consternation and leads to lower self-esteem and anxiety.
The intellectual interests of gifted children usually are quite different from those of their peers. As a result, gifted children can have difficulty with making and maintaining friendships within their age group, which can also be associated with poor self-esteem or development of anger at the apparent injustice in the world.
Gifted children often gravitate to interactions with older individuals who may be their intellectual equals, or with younger children who are happy to be led by a knowledgeable older child. Unfortunately, parents and educators often assume that gifted children should learn and interact with children of their own chronological age. In that setting, some gifted children may choose to withdraw from their peers and become loners, which sometimes leads to the development of depression.
Working with Gifted Children
The last question I ask children during my intake interview is, “If you had one wish, what would you wish for?” Gifted children tend to reply with some version of “more wishes.” I then challenge them to choose their most important wish. Gifted children then respond with a sophisticated “old soul” answer, i.e., an answer that might be expected from an older individual such as, “an ability to cure cancer,” “to be able to time-travel so I can correct injustices in the past,” “to figure out how to make friends,” or “to find out what can make me happy.”
Once they decide they would like to receive my help, I teach children three basic lessons:
- The power of positive talk - Learning how to speak and think in a positive manner can allow children to better manifest their desired outcomes.
- How to become calm through self-hypnosis - Learning how to trigger a relaxation response when faced with frustrating situations allows the children more time to process their thoughts and come up with potential solutions to their challenges.
- Accessing the subconscious – With younger children I call the subconscious their “inner advisor.” I will explain how they can use hypnosis to access their subconscious as a rich resource for many of their deep questions. Once children realize that they already know the answer to some of their difficult questions, they feel much better about themselves and more empowered.
Subsequent therapy sessions are dedicated to addressing each child’s individual needs.
If a child desires to talk about existential questions we discuss these at length. As much as possible, I prompt the child’s subconscious to come up with the answers to the questions they pose. I have witnessed how children’s emotional maturity takes a forward leap when they recognize how they can rely on themselves.
We discuss how to reframe thinking about high expectations in a way that lessens anxiety. I explain that having high expectations is good in that it drives the children to excel. I suggest that if they do their best and nonetheless fall short of their expectations, they can rest assured that they achieved the most they can, until they learn to do better. On the other hand, if they meet all their expectations this means that they set their goals too low, and it is possible that they could have excelled even more. Thus, I explain that falling short of some expectations is a good thing.
We reframe perfectionism as well. The children usually endorse that they want to be the best that they can be. I suggest that if they attempt to achieve perfection in all their activities, they are bound to fall short of their goal as it is impossible to be perfect at everything. Further, by attempting to be perfect, they are limiting the breadth of their activities as it takes a lot of time to achieve perfection. Thus, I suggest that for them to accomplish as much as possible they need to learn to accept “good enough” from themselves in many of their activities.
Finally, I reassure gifted children that there exist other kids their age who think similarly. I suggest that once they get to college, they will be able to find such individuals. In the meantime, I encourage gifted children to interact with their intellectual peers by taking college level classes, which was made even easier during the pandemic, as enrollment in such classes can be done on-line. Some of my patients have earned a lot of college credits in this fashion before they even applied to college.
Gifted children who are given adequate support can excel and contribute greatly to our society. Counseling, including use of hypnosis, can be instrumental in providing such children with tools they can use to help them thrive.
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