Building and nurturing resilience in gifted children

Many gifted children are not gifted in all areas of life; they can lack self-esteem and often doubt their true abilities.  As a parent or teacher, you can support gifted children to build resilience for the future. 

Build and nurture resilience in gifted children
Vanessa Rendall Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Gifted children are all individuals and present their giftedness in different ways. However, a common belief is that if a child is gifted then they can cope well in any situation, are successful in all areas of life and have high self-esteem. In fact, this is not always the case. 

As a parent or educator of gifted children, you may wonder how you can nurture and build persistence and resilience. Here are three ways to look at your gifted child’s life and how you can support them in a positive way. 

  1. Challenge them

If a gifted child is not challenged, they may not develop the resilience they will need when content becomes challenging later on in their school life. As a parent you need to find places where your child can go to be challenged and to work with others who think at their level. This way, they can learn to come second, make mistakes and see problems from different perspectives.  

These activities could take place before or after school, at lunchtime, gifted days out of the classroom or on the weekend. They could be run in a science lab, with other gifted children, in a chess club or a local geologists’ society. 

You can find activities that ignite further interest in a variety of places – they do not need to be specifically for children of their age – so search around and see what might grab your child’s attention. A new environment with like-minded peers and challenging content will be a great way for them to develop their resilience, as they will see that they may not always be the fastest, smartest or best problem solver. They will have the opportunity to make mistakes and then to make progress.   

  1. Focus on notable people

Children who struggle with persistence when things become difficult or are not resilient in challenging situations always benefit from reading about successful people in their areas of interest. 

When gifted children learn about highly successful people and understand how they persisted with a problem or overcame challenges that made them want to give up at times, they can see how positive thinking, learning from mistakes and trying again is a positive way to function. 

As their parents and educators, we cannot always tell these students about the difficulties we had when we were little because we are not necessarily the highly successful people they look up to. 

Find a highly successful person in your child’s field of passion. Learn about their childhood and how they overcame any difficulties through persistence and resilience to achieve their goals. This can be a fun learning activity through reading books and watching documentaries together. There are many great books now written for children that highlight successful people from all walks of life. Gifted children benefit from reading these to see that success rarely comes easily.  

  1. Building connections

When gifted children connect with others who share their passions and think with the same ability, they feel more confident to believe in their abilities and show resilience when challenges arise. The following types of connections are essential for your gifted child. 

Family connections 

Research shows that gifted children whose families play an active role in their education and have high expectations are more likely to be resilient. As a parent of a gifted child, it’s important that you spend time together. Talk to your child about their successes and failures, areas they need support in and new ideas they have. This conversation allows them to reflect on their day in a safe environment, understanding that everyone has difficulties and can receive support.  

Social connections – mentors 

Many gifted students who have mentors in their field of interests have demonstrated strong resilience. Mentors may include a sports coach, trusted teacher, family member or a counsellor. Having a significant person in their life helps gifted students work through problems and challenges with people who understand how they think. 

Social connections – like-minded peers 

All gifted students need to feel a connection with like-minded peers. This can be difficult at school if a gifted child is functioning at an age level above their chronological age. By joining groups outside of the classroom, these students have the opportunity to be challenged and develop resilience. These friendships can also foster self-belief, which in turn helps develop skills in resilience and persistence.  

Home to school connection 

When schools and parents connect well and share information, they show a child that they are working together. This is particularly important for gifted children as they often feel they stand out, are not catered for or do not have any friends. When a child knows that both school and home know what is happening, and the child has a voice, they will likely feel more challenged, supported and listened to. 

A final word

As the parent of a gifted child, you can support them to develop their skills in resilience and persistence. When your gifted child feels challenged, their motivation will rise. When your gifted child sees they are learning, their persistence will develop. When your gifted child works alongside like-minded peers, they will show strength in resilience as they watch how others deal with problems that are not easily solved. When your child understands that they are not the only person with a brilliant mind, they can continue to develop their own skills to excel. 

Part of building resilience and persistence is feeling that we belong, are motivated by what we do every day and that we are supported. As a parent you are a key catalyst in the development of your child’s gifts into a talent. By using these strategies you can be the positive support your child needs.  

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