“What a relief!”
This is the sigh I breathed 20 minutes into a seminar presented by Dr. James T. Webb, who is the ‘founding father’ of psychological matters related to Gifted children.
I hadn’t heard of him before, but this lecture definitely shifted my perspective on parenting my gifted child. I might even say, quite dramatically, his lecture changed my life!
I did not begin to recognize the struggle I had been in, until I sat in that auditorium with about 50 other parents breathing the exact same sigh, nodding our heads, eyes wide as we adjusted to the concepts Dr. Webb was sharing with us.
Looking back at that experience, I see that as the moment of clarity, much like the time I put on my first pair of glasses and the hazy blobs of green and brown that I formerly recognized as trees, now, clearly had individual leaves.
At the time of that lecture, I was just one year into my graduate program to become a marriage and family therapist. This was a mid-life career shift for me, which means I was taking on this new career while also parenting three children, one of whom was identified as “gifted” by our school district, which is how I came to be sitting in Dr. Webb’s lecture.
This sense of relief and, then a feeling of empowerment settled into me as Dr. Webb talked with us about unusual characteristics of gifted children and how parents often struggle for years to understand their children’s challenging behavior, social struggles, emotional states, etc.
I recall three years earlier sitting in the pediatrician’s office hearing that my child did not have Asperger’s, did not have a hearing loss, did not have any cognitive issues; all of the assessments said that my child did not have a problem.
I should have felt relief. But I didn’t.
I felt unsure and unsettled. No diagnosable problem, meant no path to solution.
My daughter’s lively spirit was being crushed by the feeling that she was different. Her intensity, which in the early years showed up as zest and passion had become a burden, showing up in conflict, behavior issues, cascading self-esteem, stomach issues, and lots of tears. She was petrified to speak up and ask for help from a teacher. She was fixated on classroom and playground rules and lived in fear that she would break some of those that were unwritten.
This was painful.
Now, for the life changing part. Dr. Webb’s presentation on the Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted children helped me chart a course in two aspects of my life: as a mom, and, as a therapist. As a mom, that “diagnosis” I had been looking for from the pediatrician was now available. There was my path forward. There is a wealth of information and support! There are things I can understand, problems that I can help my child to solve. That was empowerment! That was exciting!
Fast forward three years, I’ve taken what I’ve learned from my daughter, and from amazing resources such as Dr. Webb and Dr. Branch, and I’m branching out to offer support to other parents and children, so that we can recognize the unique needs of our children, and come together as a community to either get in front of these problems, or recover and help these kiddos move back to their passionate selves, re-invigorate their self-esteem, and provide a space to talk freely with other parents who can hear about these particular struggles.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I look forward to hearing your stories as well. If you have any feedback on this write up, or ideas for future articles, post here, or drop me a note at my email on my contact page.
In future I plan to cover: helping others understand your gifted student, perfectionism, anxiety, coping skills, and topics that are brought up by our community.