While gifted students may be academically advanced, they do have their struggles when it comes to emotional needs. It is important for teachers to be aware of and learn how to deal with these needs and issues including academic stress, extreme imaginations, and interacting in social groups.
The Big Picture
Gifted children have all, if not more, social and emotional needs than do traditional learners. Because they are so adept at solving academic challenges they are often expected to solve emotional challenges as well. In this article we will look at a few of the emotional and social issues exceptional learners deal with.
Their Academic Stress Level
Academic stress is often a problem for bright students. Because a gifted student can master a concept after one or two repetitions and traditional students may require up to twelve repetitions, the exceptional learner often becomes bored and frustrated with formal education. This frustration can result in an extremely high stress level. Consider assigning your gifted students a more challenging project they can work on when they are ahead of the class. This will help alleviate the boredom, give them a project they can look forward to, and help ease the tension and resentment felt toward fellow classmates.
Their Imaginations Can Lead to Fears
Exceptionally bright children have vivid imaginations. This is beneficial when it comes to creative problem-solving, but it becomes a detriment when it leads to intense fears. It is important to find a way to help with the fears while nurturing the imagination. Some ideas to consider are having the student use his imagination for positive visualization. He can also keep a journal of the things he is afraid of. Once the fear is written down it is easier to look at objectively and deal with. If it is decided that the fear is a rational one, have him brainstorm solutions. This will restore some sense of control over the fearful situation.
Their Sensitivity to Others
Extremely bright children can suffer from a sense of hopelessness and helplessness caused by a heightened sensitivity to the plight of others. Helping them find a place where they can volunteer in their community, or even participate in global outreach projects, will help them understand that they can make a difference in the lives around them. While they cannot solve all the suffering they are concerned about, they can be taught about the ripple effect. When you throw a stone into a body of water it causes hundreds of ripples. One good act will lead to another.
Their Social Interactions With Others
A typical need for gifted students leads to difficulty in their social lives. The need to organize and their love of complex rules often makes them appear bossy. To help them become more self-aware in this area, appeal to their sense of fairness and to their sensitivity towards others. Instead of telling them no one will want to be friends with someone who is bossy, try to help them understand they may be hurting their friend's feelings. Talk about good leadership skills. The best leader isn't the one who controls every situation, but one who gives others a chance to show and develop their strengths.
Teach the Whole Person
By helping your gifted students work through the emotional issues that are a natural part of childhood you are acknowledging them as a whole person rather than just a exceptional learner.