Word has got around that your son or daughter is “really great at maths”, or perhaps “top at science” and it’s proving tricky for your child to cope with these statements; some of their peers see them as a know-it-all or worse, a show-off. Your child may even start to mask their abilities.
Spotting the pitfalls will help you and your child manage any issues. Signs that something isn’t right include:
Your Child Hides Their Talent
This is the classic desire to fit in socially. A child with high learning potential (HLP) child may have a secret fear that they won’t fit in if they don’t do what everyone else is doing around them, from possessing the latest mobile phone to getting into trouble for fun.
Another aspect is that they may resent their high learning potential, as their peers begrudge them because of it. Be careful not to over-mention giftedness at home, focus on your son or daughter in the sense that they are just like every other child when it comes to basic needs – playtime, bedtime, age-appropriate activities. Your child needs to feel reassured that they are normal in every sense, and help them to plan for the future. See advice sheet PA518 Supporting Underground Profile High Learning Potential Children
Dropping of Grades
Your child may lack challenge in their learning needs. Perhaps they are bored of constant repetition (for example, three weeks on the same science topic) that fits in with the pace of others in their class, or they already know about the topic being taught.
Make sure you frequently check with your child how they are doing. Is there anyone you know in or outside the school or home education setting who can act as a mentor? Can you offer enrichment, perhaps by finding a new club, computer app or a family discussion over newspapers?
HLP children enjoy studying with someone who can show them new ideas and concepts. Encourage original thinking too. The great contributors to this world did just that – a smart type of non-conforming! If there’s little scope for it at school, find outside pursuits that require it.
They Don’t Tell You that Friendships Are in Trouble
It is easy to assume that HLP children who have the eloquence and intellectual abilities to discuss and analyse, would instantly speak up when friendships go wrong. However, they don’t always do this as they are used to thinking and working independently (often in a class setting). Their strong sensitivities can also mean it is painful for them to discuss anything going wrong.
Work with your child on how to adjust and be tactful in their conversations, to express interest in their friend’s interests and to discuss how sometimes it is sensible not to start talking about the laws of physics with children of their age.
They’re Embarrassed by Their Sporting Abilities
Not so quick at team sports? Remind your child that it doesn’t matter – there is a sport for everybody! Individual sports are ideal for HLP children because they encourage a healthy self-challenge rather than defeatism, and boost wellbeing. It may take time to find the right exercise – for example tennis is great because you are reliant on yourself but that can also have negative implications if perfectionism comes into it. Cross-country running requires stamina but a child can gain a real sense of pride from completing it – start small with a 2K Park Run if they like. Team sports won’t be removed from the school curriculum, so help your child to understand that it’s alright not to be good at everything, that often we learn more from things that require more effort and that mixing with different children is great for communication and collaborative skills.
What can you do to help your child survive and avoid issues that may push them into resenting their gifts? Apart from ensuring that your child is modest about their achievements, accepts that other children have talents and has empathy for how others are feeling, here are some suggestions.
Teach Them the Right Kind of Self-Confidence
Your child needs a self-belief that they are going to overcome difficulties. Help them to find ways to seek out fulfilment through a growth mindset. If it’s academically related, praise their effort more than the result, for example: “you’ve persisted with that difficult piece of music” or “the essay has a great conclusion because you researched the ideas thoroughly.” For emotional issues, talk with your child about how their calmness (and maturity for older HLP children) when faced with stress may not make everything right, but that it will go a long way to helping.
As a parent, try to keep your expectations realistic. Motivation and talent are key success factors but continually using phrases such as “you are always brilliant” to your child will put pressure on youngsters who will then expect to be consistently exceptional.
Go For Life Skills
Asynchronous development may make your child find academic tasks easier than the practical! Children develop different skills at different times, and reaching their full potential in all areas should be the goal, no matter where that lies.
Can your child achieve in a different way, by honing their life skills? How about a flexible approach to tasks or diverse jobs? Not so obvious life skills include: self-motivation, being organised when the moment requires it and a positive, open outlook.
Allow Special Interests But Nurture Empathy
Children with high learning potential can be passionate about certain topics and subjects which should be encouraged where appropriate. However, they also need to accept that other people can’t absorb information, understand and retain it as fast as themselves. If they can learn to avoid open criticism and interrupting friends who get information wrong, yet encourage another child to be the best that they can be, then your HLP child is truly someone to be proud of!