Bloser: Why Are Support Groups For Parents Of Gifted Children Necessary?

Mary Beth Bloser is a SENG Model Parent Support Group trained facilitator. She is co-facilitating a virtual SENG Model Parent Support Group 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays starting Jan. 26. Courtesy photo

By Mary Beth Bloser, MSSW, BCC, LLC
Life, Health, & Wellness Coaching 
Los Alamos

There are many myths about gifted children. Probably the most prevalent is that gifted children are at an advantage academically, are more likely to succeed in school and in life, and therefore are easier to parent.

Before I became the parent of a gifted child, I too believed this myth. I thought gifted people were motivated and self-directed in school and in their day to day lives. For example, I have a gifted brother who attended prestigious schools and became a tax attorney. I always thought, “Oh, gifted people are lucky! They do impressive things, it seems easy for them, everyone praises them. Their lives must be a breeze!”.

As it turns out, being “gifted” is a very complex thing, and often creates a lot of challenges for children and parents alike. Giftedness presents itself in various ways. Some characteristics of giftedness can actually sabotage academic performance, create a profound sense of social isolation, alienation, and even existential depression.

Jen Merrill, the mother of two gifted boys and author of the blog Laughing at Chaos, wrote a book entitled If This is a Gift, Can I Send it Back?. It can be heartbreaking, for example, to watch your child struggle to connect with peers and simply not be able to do so.

Two main characteristics of gifted children make support groups for parents especially helpful: Intensity and Asynchronous Development. Gifted people are more likely than others to express certain intensities- emotional, intellectual, sensory, imaginational, and psychomotor. My child has expressed most of these throughout her childhood, and they have significantly impacted our family life. Her intensity has led to parenting decisions contrary to what traditional parenting books, family, and professionals (uneducated in the needs of the gifted) have recommended.

In a SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted) Model Parent Support Group, parents of gifted children can be open about what is happening in their families and get support and information on how to parent without fear of judgment or concern they are bragging.  Additionally, gifted and intense children often come from gifted and intense parents. A SENG Model Parent Support Group offers a safe space for parents to receive validation and support for themselves as parents and as people, which can serve to improve family dynamics.

Asynchronous development means a child expresses giftedness in a certain area or areas of development but then is either at age level or even behind in other areas. One example given in A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children  (Webb, Gore, Amend, DeVries, 2007), is of a 7-year-old child who is reading at a 6th grade level, doing math at a 4th grade level, and who has the fine-motor skills of a 2nd grader, her chronological age. This is a child with special school needs, one who needs her parents to advocate for her in order to get her academic needs met, perhaps with an IEP (Individualized Education Program).

It can be intimidating for a parent to point out to school staff that one’s child is somehow “advanced” and yet needs more, or something different, than what they are getting in the classroom. Many parents of gifted children end up homeschooling in order to accommodate their children’s academic, social, and emotional needs.

When my child was in the 5th grade, she asked me to arrange a meeting with her teacher so she could offer feedback on her management of classroom dynamics. Apparently, the teacher was doing a lot of yelling and my daughter felt uncomfortable and wanted to let her teacher know. While I was in awe of my daughter for wanting to self-advocate with an authority figure, I was also mortified. I felt embarrassed on the teacher’s behalf and wanted to disappear underneath the conference table during our meeting. To her teacher’s credit, she thanked my daughter for the feedback and told her she would strive to stop yelling.

Even recalling this now, years later, makes me uncomfortable. I wish I’d had a group where I could have openly discussed things like this. They have happened routinely over the years and I haven’t felt comfortable discussing them with other parents for fear of being judged.

Parenting a gifted child can be a lonely experience. While sharing their amazing skills and abilities can be tempting, it’s often viewed by other parents as bragging. At the same time, the intensities of these children make each and every single day feel like a Herculean undertaking leaving you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.

SENG Parent Model Support Groups offer parents an opportunity to connect with other parents who understand, offer resources and information for how to manage certain issues, and provide ways to advocate for your child and your family. The ultimate goal of these support groups is to improve the social and emotional needs of the gifted child (or children) and their families. Research shows these groups can improve parents’ relationships with their children.

Despite how smooth my own gifted brother’s life looked to me, there was more to his story. In recent years he made it clear that he did not appreciate being sent to an elite boarding school in the 10th grade. My parents sent him there to try to accommodate his learning needs and, I believe, they did their best by all of us. However, they were coping with four very different children of varying intensities, and they didn’t have anyone with whom to consult or get support.

A virtual SENG Model Parent Support Group is being offered 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays starting Jan. 26 and runs for 8 weeks. Parents of gifted and twice exceptional (children with giftedness and another exceptionality such as a learning disability and/or a mental health issue) children of all ages are welcome to sign up.

You can do so by contacting Mary Beth Bloser at marybethbloser@gmail.com or (603) 828-3216. The cost of the group is $100 plus the cost of A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, which can be found at our local library or on Amazon. Scholarships are available. The group will be facilitated by two trained SENG Model Parent Support Group facilitators, Mary Beth Bloser and Valerie Marsh. We hope you will join us! Please register soon as participation is limited.

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