The Social and Emotional Needs of
Nurturing Optimistic Children by Matthew Chu Emotional Management of Gifted Children by Dr Iris Chau
Featured Articles Research Corner
Case Sharing 8
12 What's Recommended
14 Parent Zone
Is being gifted truly a blessing? Gifted children develop faster both cognitively and affectively. They are able to think more deeply about issues and problems. Amongst them are the perfectionists and those who have acute sensitivities and possibly some who are underachieving.
Research has shown that the affective characteristics of the gifted need to be recognised as social emotional health has a great impact on academic achievement. Some gifted children may have emotional problems which could be due to their unique needs not being met. Therefore, it is important for us to understand the social and emotional needs of gifted children in order to help them maximise their potential. This issue of ‘Nurturing the Gifted’ focuses on the social and emotional needs of the gifted. Two frontline practitioners cum researchers share their experiences on developing gifted children’s optimism and managing their emotions. The vulnerabilities of gifted children are examined in an article on empirical research finding. We share some useful video clips in ‘What’s Recommended’ and interview a parent on how she developed her skills in managing emotional problems of her gifted child. A new section, ‘Case Sharing’, is included in this issue, aiming to provide parents with problem-solving skills for the difficulties they and their gifted children might face. Heightened sensitivity is another important topic raised as it has been reported to be one of the more common traits that has posed quite a challenge to parents. We hope that through understanding giftedness, we can learn to embrace it and know how to encourage gifted children and help them to soar to greater heights. The future will depend on the commitment of this group to serve the greater good. 17 Consultation Centre
16 What's New
Nurturing Optimistic Children
It is generally assumed that optimistic people are carefree and cheerful. They are thought to be positive, fearless and full of confidence. They often tell themselves: “I can do it.” “I’m capable.” “Nothing can get me down.” However, research has shown that these views do not hold. Optimistic people also encounter obstacles and difficulties in their lives, just like everybody else. They sometimes feel sad, dejected, disappointed or heartbroken. Even if a person sees everything around him as perfect, he might not be optimistic. In fact, he could be in denial of the truth. So what is optimism then? Martin E. Seligman, the former President of the American Psychological Association and Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, has been conducting research on depression for over twenty years. He explained that whether a person is optimistic or not depends on the explanatory style he adopts in interpreting the difficulties he encounters. Three modes of optimistic thinking We give reasons for things that happen to us. This explanatory style begins to develop at an early age, and in general, this mode of thinking will persist throughout one's lifetime. According to Dr. Seligman’s theory, explanatory styles can be categorised into permanence, pervasiveness and personalisation. Optimistic and pessimistic people have very different explanatory styles when responding to setbacks. Pessimistic people believe that setbacks are unavoidable and are often disastrous. They are convinced that misfortunes will ensue and turn their lives upside down. They tend to blame themselves rather than external factors or others, and feel that they should be held responsible for any setbacks they encounter. Even when they realise that they are not to blame, they still think that other contextual factors are unchangeable, and will consequently become discouraged and withdrawn.
by Matthew Chu
Permanence: Permanent or Temporary? Children who suffer from depression tend to adopt a permanent explanatory style when they are faced with setbacks. Believing that the causes of misfortunes are permanent and endless, they are likely to feel helpless. In contrast, most children who overcome setbacks believe that the causes of their misfortunes are only short-lived. The following is a list of different reactions of optimistic and pessimistic children. Optimistic Children
Mom is in a bad mood today. I hope she’ll be fine soon.
Mom is the most badt e m p e re d p e rs o n i n t h e world.
Siu Ming is mad at me today. He doesn’t want to play with me.
Siu Ming dislikes me. He doesn’t play with me anymore.
My younger sister is still young and innocent. I shouldn’t be too bothered by her now. She will grow up
My younger sister is bugging me every day!
Children tend to be pessimistic if they see their failure and rejection by others as ‘permanent’. However, if they confine their misfortunes to a certain temporary timeframe, they are being more optimistic.
Pervasiveness: Pervasive or Individual? Some children are capable of stopping difficulties from affecting every aspect of their lives, as though they have an effective defense mechanism which enables them to compartmentalise their problems and concerns. Even if they come across problems, they can still get on with their lives as usual. On the other hand, a pessimistic child when faced with adversity will think that a series of worse misfortunes will follow and will also affect every aspect of his life. As John Milton famously wrote, ‘The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, and a Hell of Heaven’.
I failed my math test this time. If I remember the formula, I will surely pass the test next time.
The math test was easy but I failed it. I will fail again no matter how hard I study. I will surely fail other subjects including English, Chinese and History as well.
I am not very good at football.
I am not good at football and my academic results are also poor. I’m a total failure.
Siu Ming and Siu Mei are mad at me.
Nobody in my class wants to play with me.
Personalisation: Internal or External? Personalisation is the third explanatory style. When misfortunes occur, children may blame themselves (internalised), but they may also shift their responsibilities to others or attribute their misfortunes to external factors (externalised). Children who blame themselves excessively have lower self-esteem. No matter what happens, they think that they should be held personally responsible. They are hence prone to self-blame and may suffer from depression if such thoughts persist. To help children develop as optimists, we have to first identify the actual responsibility that children ought to take for their behaviour. They should neither blame themselves excessively nor avoid responsibilities altogether. They should adopt a ‘blame on behavior’ instead of ‘blame on character’ approach and not blame themselves for all negative outcomes.
Mr Matthew Chu is an Educational Psychologist. His research interest is positive psychology – study of human strengths and potentials. He has conducted research studies in various areas related to parenting, learning, mental health, and developing strengths in students: optimism, selfefficacy, learning motivation, parent-child relationship and mental health. His research papers have been presented in international conferences, including American Psychological Association and International Congress of Psychology. He has been a visiting lecturer of the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh. He also serves as the Fieldwork Mentor in Educational Psychology for the University of Hong Kong. He teaches a course on “Positive Psychology” at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and a course on “Gifted Education” (training program for teachers) at the University of Hong Kong.
A realistically optimistic child In addition to teaching our children how to identify both optimistic and pessimistic thinking, it is even more important that we help them to understand if their thinking is realistic and accurate. We want them to value their life and view matters objectively. We hope that our children do not shirk their responsibilities and blame others when things go wrong. A truly optimistic child looks at an issue from different perspectives. He will not exacerbate or evade problems nor shift the blame to others. Children have to learn how to objectively analyse problems. True optimism is based on accurate observation and optimistic children should analyse issues objectively.
There are 40 pupils in my class and I am ranked 36th in the exam. I did not prepare myself well enough. Next time, I will do better if I prepare early.
There are 40 pupils in my class and I am ranked 36th in the exam. I am stupid. No matter how hard I try, it will be useless.
Today, my teacher scolded me in front of the whole class for my being inattentive. If I don’t talk too much with my classmates, I will not be scolded again.
Today, my teacher scolded me in front of the whole class, telling them that I was a bad student and I wouldn’t be respected.
Thinking optimistically is an effective way to build resilience.
My mother is unhappy because I lost her watch.
My mother often pulls a long face because I am not adorable.
Whether a person is optimistic depends on his explanatory style. The 3 explanatory styles are permanence, pervasiveness and personalisation.
If children are dissatisfied with their own behavior and not their character, they will try to improve as they understand that it is possible to change their behavior. On the other hand, if children attribute their problems to innate character, they are far more likely to become dispirited and unwilling to work towards improvment.
Tips for Parents
Genuine optimism is about analysing and solving problems from different perspectives. Teachers and parents can guide children on how to deal with matters objectively.
Emotional Management of
Dr Iris Chau
Gifted children have high potential and excellent learning abilities but they need to be emotionally stable and healthy in order to realise their potential. Parents should pay more attention to the affective development of their gifted children instead of focusing only on their academic achievement. Listening to and accepting children's emotions can encourage them to express their emotions. For example, if your child tells you in a happy mood that his teacher praised him for being a good boy today, you can respond by saying that “I can tell you're really very happy.” If your child cries and complains about his younger brother breaking his toy again, you should not dismiss his emotion by saying, “It's nothing serious!” What you could say is, “Oh, you are very mad at him for breaking your favourite toy.” If the emotions of children are acknowledged, they will feel that their feelings are being shared and the negative emotions can be alleviated. Knowing that their parents understand them, children will feel safe to confide in them.
Help your children manage their temper tantrum A child needs to learn how to manage his emotions and not to throw a tantrum. Parents need to stay firm and should not let their children’s tantrum dominate a situation. Otherwise, their children will use temper to manipulate others and not learn how to manage their emotions. Giving in to children for fear that they will make a fuss will only result in an even worse situation. Parents should insist on their decision and not give in to their children. They should also allow some time for their children to calm down. Gradually, they will understand that they cannot manipulate others by throwing tantrums.
It is normal to have a temper. What matters is how we manage our emotions. Children’s ability to control or express their emotions is very limited, so it is common that they sometimes cry or bawl. Such emotions will not last long. It is unacceptable for them to vent their anger by hitting others, throwing things even hurting themselves. Parents should stop such undesirable behaviour by telling them, “I know you are upset. You can be mad at me but you cannot hit me.” If your children continue to express their anger with violence, they should be told the consequences. You may say: “You choose to hit me, and therefore you’ll have 10 minutes of TV time deducted!” Parents should carry out what they say and have their children face the consequences if they cross the line. They should avoid using corporal punishment to stop children’s temper tantrums. Children will then realise that there are consequences and learn proper ways to manage their emotions.
How to manage the rebellious behaviour of children Rebellious behaviour is common in gifted children. They mature earlier and are more aware of the shortcomings of adults. Some of them may use drastic measures to get people’s attention, recognition and appreciation. When managing such children, parents should avoid condemnation or corporal punishment which not only sours the parentchild relationship, but also destroys the children’s self-esteem and makes them more rebellious. If your children make mistakes, you can punish them by reducing their time for TV, computer and other entertainment. If they comply and follow the rules, you should praise them immediately. Recognising the positive behaviour of children and letting them understand logical consequences is the most effective way to develop self-discipline.
Parents should refrain from arguing when their gifted children talk back. A dispute will only make everyone angrier. When there is a disagreement, parents should tell their children their decision in a calm manner without making any attempt to persuade the agitated children. For example, if your child insists that he should go to school alone, you can firmly say, “You are too young to do so.” It is not necessary to argue with him. If he talks back rudely, you can calmly tell him to stop. Calming the child is more important than convincing him of your argument. Gifted children are no different from other children. They need the love, appreciation and acceptance of their parents. Parents should bear in mind that though gifted, they are afterall still children.
Dr Chau, a registered psychologist of British Columbia, Canada, has been teaching as an intern tutor for years for an M.A. programme on social work at the University of Hong Kong. She received the Outstanding Research Award (U.S.) from the International Play Therapy Association in 1997 and has many years of experience in helping children, youngsters and adults manage their emotional, developmental and psychological problems with play therapy. Moreover, she is devoted to promoting parent-child therapy and assisting parents in nurturing healthy and happy children. In addition to providing training for local professionals such as teachers, social workers, counsellors and medical staff, she has been sharing her experience through her articles and interviews with the media.
Tips for Parents If parents do not want their children to solve problems using violence, they should avoid using corporal punishment. Parents should teach their children how to use positive ways to cope with anger. For instance, children can be encouraged to express their negative emotions through drawing and writing. They can punch their pillows, rip paper or listen to music when they are angry.
What the Empirical Studies Reveal – Psychological Well-being of Gifted Children A person with exceptionally high intelligence but with emotional problems is always a favorite character of any playwright. Many are stereotyped to be eccentric with mental problems and unable to get along with others. Or worse, they could be described as anxious, depressed and probably suicidal. One wonders what could have gone wrong. Gifted children are often misunderstood. However, do parents of gifted children share similar misconceptions? Are they worried that giftedness will affect the psychological well-being of their children whom they hope will be accepted by the community? Gifted children are intelligent, highly sensitive and have great insights into philosophical issues about life. And their parents often feel at a loss. One might ask: is it truly a blessing to be gifted? It is the aim of this ‘Research Corner’ to encourage parents to look for facts through available information. In this issue, we share with you a meta-analysis paper written by Dr Maureen Neihart about the link of giftedness to the psychological well-being of gifted children.
T h e C h a n g e of Focus in Resea rch
Giftedness and Self-Concept
There exist two views on the psychological well-being of gifted children. One is that giftedness protects children from maladjustment. This view hypothesises that the gifted, with their cognitive capacity, are capable of greater understanding of self and others and therefore they are more resilient. The second view proposes that gifted children are more at risk due to maladjustment compared to their non-gifted peers as giftedness increases their vulnerability to adjustment problems. The gifted are more sensitive and could experience greater degrees of alienation and stress than their peers.
Self-concept is the perception about oneself. It is part of one's personality and is affected by cognitive ability. Psychologists use different factors such as self-efficacy, self-esteem and positive self-image to understand selfconcept. It is widely regarded that self-concept is directly related to personal adjustment and psychological wellbeing.
In the late 1800’s, Lewis Terman from the USA conducted a longitudinal study to track the development of a group of highly gifted students. His study found that the gifted were better adjusted and had lower occurrence of psychotic problems. Following this, the view that giftedness has positive effect on psychological health was upheld. This view held till 1981 when a gifted high school student committed suicide. His highly publicised suicide pointed to the vulnerability of gifted children. They can also be distressed and may not be more resilient. Gifted children who are better endowed intellectually may not be equally well endowed in other domains. The “social and emotional needs of the gifted” were given more attention then. Today, the debate continues. Interestingly enough, there is now more evidence to support both views. Researchers are increasingly investigating other experiences associated with giftedness such as the domains of gifts and educational provisions. Psychological well-being has since evolved from a single conception to more detailed and objective factors such as self-concept, depression, anxiety or delinquency.
There are studies that compare the self-concepts of gifted and non-gifted children. However, the results of these studies are mixed. Some studies conclude that there are no differences between the selfconcepts of both groups of children. Other studies indicate that intellectually or academically gifted children have more positive self-concepts. Ablard (1997) conducted a research on 174 academically gifted eighth grade (equivalent to S2 in Hong Kong) students in the U.S. and found that they demonstrated more positive self-confidence. However, another study found lower self-concept in gifted students (LeaWood and Clunies-Ross, 1995).
Giftedness, Depression, Anxiety and Suicide During the 80’s and 90’s, the trend of studies moved away from examining the abstract construct of psychological well-being in gifted children to specific indicators of adjustment such as depression, anxiety, suicide, etc.
Depression The literature on depression does not support a correlation between giftedness and depression among children and adolescents. All empirical studies examining depression among gifted children have found that gifted students exhibit similar or even lower levels of depression compared to their nongifted peers under the same environment and similar source of pressure.
Personality theorists have suggested that gifted children’s anxiety is directly related to the acceptance they receive and the coping skills they have. This anxiety may accumulate and manifest when they approach adolescence. However, empirical research has not demonstrated that anxiety is a greater problem for gifted children than their non-gifted counterparts under the same environment and with similar sources of stress. In fact, there is empirical evidence that intellectually or academically gifted children experience lower levels of anxiety than their non-gifted peers.
Parents may be confused by the conflicting findings of the studies. In fact, many social science studies often demonstrate diverging evidence. The psychological well-being of a gifted child is related to many factors, such as family, support in schools and interactions with peers. Being gifted is only one of the many factors affecting the well-being of a child. According to this paper, attention should be drawn to:
Suicide It was once speculated that there was a higher incident rate for suicide in the gifted population. However, no evidence has been strong enough to confirm this. Research on gifted children committing suicide has shown that extreme perfectionism, fear of failure or success, and social isolation may be predilections leading to suicide among gifted adolescents.
G i f t e d n e s s a n d Social Competence The ability to cope with being different from others and the ability to get into social groups are important indicators for gifted children’s psychological wellbeing. Many investigators have attempted to understand gifted children’s psychological well-being by measuring their social status, social coping skills or perceived social competence. Research has shown that gifted students’ social competence depends on factors such as their domain of gifts, their level of giftedness and their self-perceptions or other personal characteristics. A study has shown that a group of young gifted children interact more cooperatively and demonstrate more sharing of playthings/toys than their average peers. Such findings show the advanced social skills of gifted children. Another study exploring the impact of IQ on social competence has found that moderately gifted children demonstrate more pro-social behaviour than the exceptionally gifted students. Exceptionally gifted students usually view themselves as more introverted and much less popular.
L i m i t a t i o n o f Research All scientific research has its limitations which arise from uncontrollable factors affecting the accuracy of the experimental results. These factors include the absence of random sampling and the prejudice of people involved in the experiments amongst others. The awareness of the limitation of a research facilitates our understanding of the applicability of the results. The research we discuss in this article has the following limitations that parents have to note. All of these studies are conducted at schools and the identification of gifted children is always based on the children’s academic results/performance or the teachers’ observation. Often, the gifted underachievers are not chosen as participants and such research findings are based on the gifted achievers. Unfortunately, gifted underachievers are more prone to psychological problems than the gifted achievers.
1. giftedness has no particular negative impact on the psychological well-being of a child; and 2. children with high intellectual ability are not necessarily superior in their psychological functioning. No evidence supports that gifted children cope better with stress caused by school work or interpersonal relationship.
Gifted children may perform better than their nongifted counterparts academically. However, both groups of children experience similar developmental stages in psychological growth. Parents have to understand that gifted children sometimes endure greater pressure than other children and they need to be aware of the psychological impact of giftedness. More time and effort should be paid to address the affective needs of gifted children. Reference
Ablard, K.E. (1997). Self-Perceptions and Needs as a Function of Type of Academic Ability and Gender. Roeper Review, 20(2), 110-115. Lea-Wood, S.S. & Clunies-Ross, G. (1995). Self-Esteem of Gifted Adolescent Girls in Australian Schools. Roeper Review, 17(3), 195-197. Neihart, M. (1999). The Impact of Giftedness on Psychological Well-being: What Does the Empirical Literature Say? Roeper Review. 22(1), 10-17.
Tips for Parents T he studies quoted in this paper by Dr Neihart are empirical studies. By systematically collecting enormous amount of data, scientists try to understand different phenomena around us. When they conduct empirical studies, they have to follow a set of strict rules so as to generate more reliable results.
We should be cautious when interpreting research
data. If we only focus on the insignificant differences between the gifted and their non-gifted counterparts, we might have misconception that our gifted children are problem-free in areas such as self-esteem and anxiety. The within group differences among gifted children can be much larger than the differences between the gifted and the non-gifted. For example, if a gifted child has been frustrated and misunderstood by his parents for a long period of time, his self-concept will be very different from that of other gifted children in general.
Gifted children are not capable of shouldering more
pressure because of their higher cognitive abilities. However, they have to endure greater stress than their non-gifted counterparts because of negative remarks or responses from people who do not understand them.
s i t i n v e e S
As Virginia Satir once said, ‘the problems themselves are not the problem; dealing with them is the problem’. Through sharing their own stories, we hope that parents can develop different perspectives on parenting and gain new insights into nurturing their gifted children.
The Sto ry of BoBo Our only son Bo Bo is five years old. He has never been formally assessed for his IQ but his teachers as well as both my husband and I found him to be a fast learner with a quick mind and strong curiosity. He always asks probing questions, reads books on advanced topics, and is keen to take on challenging tasks. His teachers and my friends have told me that he has traits that indicate giftedness but what we are really concerned about are the challenges we face while taking care of him. Bo Bo never enjoys the same sort of stories which appeal to other children of his age. We have stopped telling him such stories after realising that he was scared of certain plots in science fiction and biblical stories. He worries easily, especially when he hears of danger, disasters and death. Once he was slightly sick and he kept asking us if he would die, as if he had caught an incurable disease. Although we repeatedly told him that he would be absolutely fine, he still believed that he was dying. A big earthquake in our country worsened the situation last year. With scenes of the destruction caused by the earthquake flooding the local newspapers and TV channels, Bo Bo’s emotions were out of control, and he was sleepless for quite some time. Dealing with his fear and consequent emotion was a real test of our patience. We wanted Bo Bo to learn how to swim at the age of four. We tried getting him into the pool but no matter how hard we tried, we failed. In the end we gave up. The frustration
T h e o r e t i c a l B a c k g r ound Kazimierz Dabrowski, a Polish psychologist and psychiatrist developed a theory of emotional development based on the study of sensitive, non-aggressive, highly intelligent and creative individuals. This theory has helped us to understand the gifted population better. One particularly important theoretical concept underpinning his work is the overexcitabilities (OE’s) of gifted individuals.
OE's Many gifted children have intense emotions. The OE’s offer us a different perspective to understand the emotional intensity experienced by gifted individuals. There are five forms of OE’s: psychomotor, sensual, imaginational, intellectual and emotional. Piechowski (1986) described OE’s as:
· Psychomotor: A person who needs lots of movement
and athletic activity, and has lots of physical energy. He talks fast, gestures a lot and may have nervous tics.
we were experiencing at that point was not due to the time or money spent on him. It was more the struggle we had with him by the poolside. We were like a pair of lunatics struggling with a child and at the same time trying to avoid the unnecessary attention that we were getting. I knew that I would become a pushy parent if I kept forcing him to do things that he did not want to. Bo Bo has been very sensitive to sound ever since he was very young, and needs the TV to be turned off. His sensitivity not only affects our family life but also makes certain situations outside the home very difficult to deal with. We dread each Sunday when we have a regular gathering with our parents at a Chinese restaurant. Every time we are there, Bo Bo becomes very difficult and he even yells and screams. As soon as we manage to make him sit down, he begs us to take him away. Seeing this, our parents would not be pleased and would scold Bo Bo for disgracing them. I know they blame us for not disciplining him. Initially, we tried to be firm with him as we did not want to be condoning but this resulted in a lot of conflicts with Bo Bo. Through further observation and understanding, we’ve started to think that he probably has intense sensitivity which is an affective trait of some gifted children. Now, we have become more tolerant of him. No matter what, he is still a special blessing from God.
Parent of BoBo
· S ensual: One who has a love for sensory things --
textures, smells, tastes or a powerful reaction to negative sensory input such as bad smells, noise, etc. Such children tend to be sensitive to bright lights (e.g. squinting in all the family photographs) and loud sounds. For instance, the baby who cries when the wind blows in his face, the toddler who cries at the feel of grass on his bare legs and feet. Aesthetic awareness -- the child who is awed to breathlessness at the sight of a beautiful sunset or cries listening to Mozart’s composition.
· Imaginational: One who is a strong visual thinker, uses
lots of metaphorical speeches. Such children tend to day dream, remember their dreams at night and often react strongly to them. They also believe in magic.
· Intellectual: This is the usual definition of "giftedness." Kids with a strong "logical imperative," who love brain teasers and puzzles, enjoy complex reasoning, and figuring things out, a love of things academic, new information, cognitive games, etc.
Strategies To o m u c h s t i m u l a t i o n e a s i l y u p s e t s emotionally sensitive children. Being highly sensitive is a trait commonly found in many gifted children (and adults too!) but not all highly sensitive children are gifted. After all, the prevalence of high sensitivity is 15 – 20% (Aron, 2002) whereas giftedness is 3 – 5%. Parents with highly sensitive children face greater challenges in parenting. They have to acknowledge and accept the sensitivity of their gifted children and help them adapt to the environment so that they can make better use of their sensitivity. The response ‘don’t be sensitive’ does not help. Saying so simply implies that there is something wrong with being sensitive. For many people, acknowledging a high degree of sensitivity helps them develop a better understanding of themselves. Highly sensitive children tend to notice more subtleties and process them more deeply. They tend to be more careful, and ponder the consequences of their actions before making decisions. Many have high personal moral standards and feel a keen sense of commitment to make a difference in the world. Interestingly enough, they always neglect their own needs. Focusing on fear or forcing the child to face his fear does not help. High sensitivity is a characteristic and not a symptom to be treated. Highly sensitive children are sensitive to new things, food, people and certain events. They might not like the sensation of being under water or the feeling of stepping on grass.
· Emotional: This includes being "happier when happy,
sadder when sad, angrier when angry," etc. One who has intensity of emotion as well as a very broad range of emotions. He also needs deep connections with other people or animals. When such children are unable to find close friends, they invent imaginary friends, make friends with pets or stuffed animals, etc. They have empathy and compassion. This is also the OE that makes children more susceptible to depression. OE’s are not unique to the gifted population, but the gifted cohort commonly experience more intensities. Statistics reveal that gifted children score higher OE’s than their nongifted counterparts (Gallagher, 1986 & Silverman, 1993). Not surprisingly, the co-existence of high psychomotor and emotional OE’s in gifted children may lead them to being diagnosed as having ADHD and other behavioral disorders (Tieso, 2007). However, with the development of more objective instruments, the construct will evolve in the future, and converging evidence is likely to emerge. Emotional intensity has sometimes been viewed as emotional immaturity. However, Dabrowski’s theory has shed light on this subject, celebrating the gifted population’s uniqueness by addressing the positive force of their affective characteristics. In fact, OE’s could be the driving force that eventually leads many gifted individuals to success and contribute significantly to our world.
To help them cope with the fear arising from disasters happening around the world, parents should let their sensitive children focus more on things that they can do to help. Very often, helping sensitive children understand more about different charitable organisations and allowing them to save up to make donations will help ease their worries. Gaining a sense of control can help them build up a stronger sense of security. Also, parents may consider giving their sensitive children chances to express their feelings and emotions through crafts and artwork. This could help them ease the fear inside and at the same time develop their strength. After all, sensitivity is an important trait for people with talents in visual and performing arts. Reading books on emotional intelligence can help parents address their children’s complex emotions. Parents who understand more about emotion management will be more able to help their children understand strong emotions as well as alleviate the stress caused by their high sensitivity. While it is crucial that we help sensitive individuals adjust to their environment, we have to, at the same time, uphold our standards of accepted behavior and decorum in public. Avoid open confrontation or a power struggle with sensitive children in public places. Always discuss the issue when both of you are calm, and brainstorm possible coping strategies for similar events that might happen in the future. Some highly sensitive adults are still misunderstood, and the fact that they have had a very difficult childhood can be a contributing factor in developing depression and other psychological problems. For information or to discussyour child, please contact our Education Advisor at our Consultation Centre (3698-3947).
Resources Aron E.N. (2002). The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them. Betsy Amster Literary Enterprises. Gallagher, S.A. (1986). A comparison of the concept of overexcitabilities with measures of creativity and school achievement in sixth grade students. Roeper Review, 8, 115 – 119. Piechowski, M.M. (1986). The concept of developmental potential. Roeper Review, 8, 190 – 197. Silverman, L K (Ed) (1993). Counseling the gifted and talented. Denver: Love Publishing. Tieso, C.L. (2007). Patterns of overexcitabilities in identified gifted students and their parents. Gifted Child Quarterly, 51, 11-22. An email discussion forum for parents of highly sensitive children
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/hscbook/ A resource website for highly sensitive persons
A story about how a sensitive girl (Hannah Taylor) constructively uses her sensitivity
Interviews with highly sensitive people conducted by Jim Hallowes
http://talentdevelop.com/interviews/JimHallowes.html Promoting social and emotional growth
http://casel.org/sel/families.php http://www.vanderbilt.edu/csefel/familytools.html Emotional intelligence
P a r e n t Vo i c e
‘Your child is your mirror.’ Do you agree? Sometimes the tribulations and setbacks faced by our children could provide us with the opportunity to learn and reflect. I - Interviewer M - Interviewee (A mother of a gifted girl)
I： When did you realise that your little daughter was quite different from others? M： My girl is now seven. We noticed that she was quite different even when she was just a baby. When she was about two, we could tell that she was smarter than other kids of the same age. She once played with a set of 100-piece jigsaw puzzles. When I took a closer look, I found that she was trying to fit the reverse side of the pieces together and I was amazed that she could complete it with ease. Despite the fact that she is gifted, she is no different from other gifted children. Her development was asynchronous. Her verbal language ability was not as developed. In fact, she had to undergo speech therapy. I： In your view, what is the most difficult task in taking care of a gifted child? M： I think it’s how to manage the child’s emotions. She would get difficult whenever she could not express herself. Each time before she got mad, we would try our very best to guess and understand what she was thinking and what she had wanted. I： Did it work? M： There were times when we could not understand her. I was very stressed. But I realised that it didn't help. What she needed was to learn to get along and communicate with others. I had to let her understand that other people would not accommodate her the way we always did. I then tried to look for other information and solutions from books, the Internet and people’s advice. Slowly, I grew to understand why she had that kind of thoughts and reactions. It’s a pity that I could not always react in a composed and calm manner because I realised that I was as sensitive as my daughter. I： Did you have adequate support? M： I was lucky because my family and friends kept reminding me not to take the problem too seriously and make a big deal out of it. I also tried to deliberate and look at the issue from the perspective of another person instead of a mother. That worked for me. I： Do tell us more. M： I was wrong in the past to think that she would definitely appreciate our efforts if we gave her what we thought was the best for her. Now, I have to admit that I really did not consider and understand how she felt and thought. I： Sometimes, changes in our behaviour do not necessarily impact the child immediately. M： That’s right. It’s not possible for a child to grow up in the twinkling of an eye. It’s natural for a family to talk and laugh together but this is not the case in my family. We have to keep in mind that we can’t laugh or talk loudly for fear that it would alarm her and make her cry. She would ask her father to hug her.
P a r e n t Vo i c e
I： Sensitive children definitely bring lots of challenges to their families. M： Exactly. My daughter is not only sensitive but also very assertive. I remember an incident that happened when she was six. It was Sunday and we were about to go out. She wanted to put on a fancy princess dress but I did not let her do so because it was cold outside and that dress was far too special for a normal family outing. However she did not give in and said that it was her decision and she wanted to have the final say. We failed to change her mind so we finally stayed home. There was another incident. I once walked past her bedroom and seeing her toys scattering on the floor, I tidied them up. She heard me picking up her toys and ran into the room. The moment she stepped in, she started to wail. She took a while to calm down then she scolded me for touching her toys. She even told me that she was capable of managing her things without my help. She said that she would tidy up after watching TV. “Mommy is The wrong”, she accused. I apologised right way after listening to her ‘lecture’.
I： Now, on hindsight, what do you think was the cause for your child’s behaviour? M： I guess she imitated us. She thought by doing so she could narrow the gap between herself and adults and could persuade us to believe she was not a dependent kid who needed special care. I： How has your unique child inspired you? M： I have to thank God for giving me two intelligent daughters who have their own characters. My little daughter has good insights and deep thoughts. She is inquisitive and asks lots of outof-the-box questions. She sets very high standards for herself. If she fails to achieve the academic results she expects, her emotions will just get out of control. For example, she will cry out loud or stop doing anything in class altogether. Her teachers consider her a student who needs special attention. We know that gifted children are not perfect and their inner world could be wider and deeper than what we could imagine. We must communicate with them with infinite love, patience and wisdom before we can open their hearts and lead them out of their inner world to experience and enjoy the real world and to be happy and positive.
Ms Winny Yip is a mother of two children. The full-time homemaker whose little daughter is gifted has worked as a volunteer in various positions including the leader of the Exchange Program for the Cross-Straits Youngsters, a member of the Zhuhai & Hong Kong Academic Exchange Program and a mentor for the Programme on Further Education and Career.
Tips for Parents A synchronous development refers to the uneven abilities in different areas that gifted children have. For instance, intellectually gifted children can have stronger logical reasoning than their age peers but slower development in oral communication. Because of their inability to verbally express their sophisticated views and thoughts, they could be frustrated. Even intellectually gifted children may lose their self confidence if they are unable to express themselves. If parents can creatively help them manage problems, their children will learn to face their own problems with a positive attitude. For instance, parents can encourage their children with limited expressive language ability to express themselves through creative means such as artwork, body language and music. P arents should set a good example by apologising when they make mistakes. However, they should be aware that no concessions should be made to their gifted children for bad behaviour and unreasonable demands. Do not compromise.
a t u b s i e f i L e Stag Our children spend a lot of time browsing the Internet as well as watching TV and movies. They learn more through these media than we imagine. A child who has problem reciting a text can easily memorise the lyrics of the theme song of a popular TV series. One who has difficulty understanding the requirements of homework can easily repeat and analyse a movie’s storyline in depth. It’s a world of media. Parents ought to keep up with the times to communicate with their children using the popular media. I would like to share with you a video clip I have recently watched – The Running Race. A group of physically disabled children gathered for a race at a sports ground. Like any race, the kids competed fiercely with each other. The run came to a standstill after a loud bang which silenced all. A swarthy little hand almost reached the red finishing line but was halted by an indistinct groan of pain. Parents can pause the video here and discuss the following questions with their children: • What do you think the boy who’s going to reach the finishing line will do?
— Use of movies to add needs of gifted children.
Through discussing the issues related to the videos, parents can guide their children to express their thoughts and feelings by 'walking in the shoes' of the characters. Sometimes our children do not answer in the way we expect; however, do allow them to express their own views though these might be unconventional, indifferent or even cruel. That may be exactly the way they feel about the reality at that moment. Don’t let our judgement and critical attitude take control. We have to listen to children’s voices before we can connect with their hearts. What kind of movies to select depends on the aim. A comedy can help lighten our worries and give us creative ideas to solve problems. In life, one will have to face unpleasant events. Tragic movies can help us release sorrow and unhappiness. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. When one feels helpless or down, watching inspirational movies could help lift one’s spirits. Sometimes, we doubt our own ability but when we see that we share the same experiences with the characters who overcome their adversity, we could regain our confidence.
• If you were one of the participants, what would you do? • If you were the child lying on the ground, how would you expect others to react? • Have you had a similar experience before? What would you expect to happen when you feel helpless or frustrated? • Who do you think that man standing at the side is? Why doesn’t he go near the sports ground to see the race? • What do you think is the most important in a race? These questions are not from any quiz show, so parents can have an open discussion with their children in a relaxing manner. There is no need to attempt all the questions or interrogate the child like a detective. Parents should bear in mind not to overreact to their children’s answers. Clips like these are readily available. Parents should use video viewing as an opportunity to guide their children’s thinking and value. The video clip ‘What is He Drawing?’ is another good example. The clip depicts a special child whom people think has mental or psychological problems. His strange behaviour of constantly filling in the drawing papers in black drew an expert’s attention. He was later identified as gifted. Some gifted children might have very different behaviour which seems strange to others.
A survey on the habit of Hong Kong primary students using the media in 2002-2003 showed that: ··The most popular activities involving the media among primary students are watching TV, using computer, playing electronic games, reading comic books, reading books and watching movies (listed in order of popularity). ··The time spent on watching TV: On normal days, 16.1% of them spent 4 hours or above, almost 70% of them spent 1-4 hours, 36.6% of them spent 1-2 hours and 30.7% spent 2-4 hours on watching TV. During holidays, most of them (33.1%) spent 2-4 hours and 26.6% of them spent 4 hours or above watching TV.
Another survey on Hong Kong primary and secondary students’ use of computers found that ··69.7% of the students interviewed spent 5 days or above using their computers every week ··35.4% of the students interviewed spent 3 hours or above using their computers every day ··The main reasons for the students using the computers are: entertainment (31.3%), learning (26.5%), communication with others (17.8%) and browsing for information (16.7%)
dress the affective .
What parents really want to know is their children’s inner thoughts. However, many parents are afraid to probe. Parents often shift their responsibility of understanding their children to others under the pretext that they do not have the expertise to do so. They believe that their children will confide in strangers instead. Through watching movies together, parents can build mutual trust and learn together with their children.
Tips for Parents Affective education is a very important component in gifted education. Scholarship holders might not be true scholars. A high calibre CEO can be selfcentred and lacks integrity. Parents have to pay attention to their gifted children's social emotional learning and moral development.
Information Corner Videotherapy is a well-documented strategy. It is a guided process that helps promote the affective development of gifted children. It makes use of visual images that allow gifted children to relate their own experiences and feelings through identifying themselves with the characters in the movies. The children, as onlookers, can release their suppressed emotions and think about their own problems and solutions through watching the story of the characters. At the same time, the children can understand how other people think when faced with the same situation and then apply their problem solving skills accordingly. Parents have to be skillful in picking suitable movies for their children. Gifted children can grasp sophisticated plots and videotherapy can help parents understand their gifted children better.
Related website and information The Running Race http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lD35EXkAHW0 What is He Drawing? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZPeGy2T8p4 Suggested movies for counselling http://www.cinematherapy.com/choosing.html findamovie.com www.findamovie.com An online electronic book sharing experience in catering the affective needs of children with movies: http://www.understandingchildhood.net/ documents/24Childseye.pdf Short clips about mentors
Short clips about talent development Paul Potts http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gs02ZmUmE Susan Boyle http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deRF9oEbRso&feat ure=fvsr Kung Fu Panda Billy Elliot Other suggested short clips One From The Heart http://mytv.tvb.com/lifestyle/onefromtheheart/ Success Stories (VCD series)
Teddy Stallard http://www.makeadifferencemovie.com/ Mr. Holland’s Opus Good Will Hunting
* The links to some of the movie clips may be removed from the websites before the publication of this magazine.
Parent Workhops (08-09) Parent workshops are designed to equip parents with some skills to help them nurture their gifted children. Unlike seminars, workshops provide a platform for parents to share and reflect through different kinds of interactive activities. Three series of workshops have been organised in the past academic year: Workshop 1: Understanding Your Gifted Child This workshop was designed for parents with children recently identified as being gifted. Through case discussion and video sharing, common issues encountered by gifted children and their families were addressed, such as perfectionism, heightened sensitivity and communication with schools.
Workshop 2: Raising an Optimist This workshop was targeted at parents with gifted children in kindergartens and lower primary schools. With the use of questionnaires and video sharing, parents reflected on their own coping strategies and learned different ways to nurture resilience in their gifted children.
Workshop 3: Using Higher Order Thinking Skills This workshop was targeted at parents with gifted children attending upper primary and secondary schools. Parents learned different tools and models to practice critical thinking and abstract reasoning with their gifted children. Many issues were raised during the discussion.
If you want to experience the joy of learning, do come and join us next time! For details of parent workshops, please visit â€˜Parent Zoneâ€™ of our website (www.hkage.org.hk)
Upcoming events from the Student Programmes and Services and Teacher Professional Development Divisions For course details, please visit our ‘Student Zone’ and ‘Teacher Zone’ We WELCOME ALL secondary school students to participate in the following activities (school nomintation is required)
Student Programmes and Services Division (12/2009 - 05/2010) Chinese Creative Writing Humanities
XX Pre Olympiad Training XX 2009-10 International Mathematical Olympiad Training XX Hong Kong Physics Olympiad Training
Film Art and Culture English Creative Writing (University-based credit-bearing Course) Mathematics in 24 lessons
2009-10 International Mathematical Olympiad Training Mathematics Talk Leaders for the New Generation
Government Study and Leadership Training Workshop on Debating Skills
Sciences Personal Growth and Development Multi-disciplinary Thematic Talk
Enhancement Programme for Gifted Students in Physics A Guide to Science in Nearly Everything Study Skills (Brain-based Learning Workshop) Harmonies in Nature: A Dialogue Between Mathematics and Physics University-based Multi-disciplinary Study Project Academic Talks in each domain are held regularly
Teacher Professional Devlopment Division (12/2009 - 05/2010) Programme Title
Thematic Course: “Developing Talents in Schools” by Dr. Francoys Gagne (in English)
Thematic Seminar on Affective Education: “Social and Emotional Learning for Gifted Learners”
Thematic Seminar on Affective Education: “Perfectionism and the Gifted Learners”
Thematic Courses Thematic Seminar: “Infusing Higher Order Thinking in Learning and Teaching” Inaugural Hotung Lecture: “Nurturing Talents for Asia World City” Dr. Francoys Gagne (in English)
Annual Gifted Education Conference (to be co-organised with the Education Bureau) Structured Course Introductory Course: “Introduction to Gifted Education”(Kindergarten Session) Introductory Course: “Introduction to Gifted Education”(Primary School Session) Introductory Course: “Introduction to Gifted Education”(Secondary School Session)
* The above information provided is subject to confirmation. Please visit the “Teacher Zone” of our website: www.hkage.org.hk
Our Reflection We have collected some data from the Project Tw i c e E x c e p t i o n a l t h r o u g h i n t e r v i e w s w i t h p a r e n t s . We would like to thank parents for giving their precious time to talk to us. We are deeply touched by the efforts t h e y a re m a k i n g f o r t h e i r c h i l d re n . I t i s g e n e r a l l y t h o u g h t t h a t parents are blessed to have gifted children but how much do we as outsiders understand the tr ying situations faced by parents whose c h i l d re n a re t w i c e e x c e p t i o n a l ? L e a r n i n g i s a n e n d l e s s p ro c e s s a n d parents with twice exceptional children are lear ning too to nur ture their c h i l d re n . B u t h o w c a n t h e y g u i d e t h e i r c h i l d re n w e l l i f e v e n e d u c a t o r s and professionals are also tr ying to figure out what twice exceptionality is about? From hope to dismay, many parents have been struggling qu ietly. T h e y d o n o t k n o w w h o t o t u r n t o w h e n t h e y a re i n d e s p a i r b u t w e h o p e t h e y k n o w t h e y a re n o t a l o n e i n t h e i r l o n g a n d a rd u o u s j o u r n e y. T h e s e parents w i s h t h a t t h e i r c h i l d re n c a n g ro w u p h a p p i l y. C a n w e p ro v i d e a h e l p i n g h a n d ? T h e c r i t i c i s m s made by others can do no more har m than the misunderstanding by About Project re l a t i v e s . We w o u l d l i k e t o s a y Twice Exceptional to the parents with twice e x c e p t i o n a l c h i l d re n : â€œ We The first stage of the Project Twice Exceptional do care.â€? was successfully completed in August and the analysis of the data collected from families with twice exceptional children is in progress. 129 families whose children have high cognitive ability as well as certain special learning needs participated in the interviews. The families were grouped according to the special needs of their children. 34% of the children have hyperactivity, 33% dyslexia, 25% autism/ Asperger Syndrome and 8% with other needs (Diagram 1).
Others 19% ADHD 35%
Information on Project Twice Exceptional is available on our website
Autism / Asperger's 18% SLD 28%
Diagram 1.Distribution of SEN Type in children of participating parents
Who will understand me? "What would be your response if you are told that your child is more intelligent?" "That’s great! I don’t have to worry about his homework!" "That’s better than a slow child with various problems!" "I’m so worn out!" "I have to know what he knows but sometimes I really don’t. I am incompetent!" "She keeps complaining we don’t understand her. No matter what we do, we still get her wrong!" “I wish he was just an ordinary kid.”
Upon hearing the responses to the question above, I felt uneasy because these parents seemed helpless. They were supposed to be excited that their children are gifted and could be the pillars of our future society but sometimes they were more perplexed instead. There are always joyful moments shared by parents and their children. But do you know that the parent-child relationship can also be full of frustrations? We keep requesting parents or teachers to cater for the affective needs of gifted children. But who cares about the needs of parents? I have met many parents who are suffering due to the challenges of raising their gifted children. Their anxiety can be felt through their voices. One can imagine the plight faced by these parents who go through restless days and sleepless nights. We all hope our gifted children who are perfectionists or who set very high standards for themselves can learn to be optimistic. At the same time, can we as parents maintain a positive attitude? Is having a gifted child something to be happy about? That depends on whether we emphasise the ‘giftedness’ or the ‘child’? So let us learn together, enjoy the process and experience the ups and downs with our children.
Consultation Centre The Consultation Centre aims to provide services through two different channels: · A free phone and email hotline answering parents’ questions and manned by a trained Education Advisor. The Hotline provides information and advice · F ace-to-face consultation with parents (and where appropriate the child) whose needs are complex and who would benefit from a personal meeting
Hotline: (852) 3698 3947 Email: email@example.com Operating Hours: Monday to Friday: 11:00a.m. - 12:00 noon 2:30p.m. - 4:30 p.m. (closed on public holidays)
"Nurturing the Gifted" Inaugural Issue Survey A survey on the Inaugural Issue of our parent magazine was conducted in June 2009. We value the feedback given. The results of this survey are as follows.
a. Number of articles
b.Level of difficulty Too Easy 11%
Too Difficult 4%
Too Few 36%
d.Inspiring No 4%
Boring 3% Interesting 24%
Contact Us If you have any query or feedback, please do not hesitate to contact us. HKAGE Website: www.hkage.org.hk Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Consultation Centre Helpline: 3698 3947 Email: email@example.com
Parent e-Forum http://www.hkage.org.hk/blog/
香港資優教育學院 2009 版權所有，未經許可，不得轉載。 © Copyright 2009 The Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education. All rights reserved.