Helping Gifted Children Fit In With Their Peers
Table of Contents
Many gifted children are faced with challenges in socialization. Although unique, it is possible for gifted kids to make friends and grow up socially happy.
Gifted children often have a more difficult time making friends than other kids. While they may be outgoing and friendly, their thought processing is usually a little different. They may not think the same way or have the same interests as another child. Often their intellect will not match up to their emotional development. Sometimes socialization will be affected depending on a gifted child’s placement in school.
Socialization in the Regular Classroom
In a regular classroom, a gifted child may feel out of place. She may feel bored or not understand when her classmates can’t grasp a concept. Her vocabulary may be more advanced than the other students, leading her to be misunderstood or looked at as weird. A gifted child is often like that of a “little adult”. She may find it more entertaining to have conversations with the teachers or adult staff rather than with kids her age.
It may be difficult for gifted children to fit in amongst their peers, but it can be possible to make friendships by finding common interests. Although gifted children may enjoy debating politics or configuring math equations, there are usually some interests they can still share with kids their own age. Whether it be sports, video games, or Star Wars, there is usually something a gifted child can find that her peers are also interested in.
Establishing Friendships in a Magnet Program
Sometimes a gifted child may be placed in a separate gifted program or full-time magnet school. Finally, these children can be put with peers who share their same intellect or advanced level of learning. They can entertain each other with their extreme interests and knowledge. Once placed in a gifted program, many gifted kids feel like they finally fit in. However, there are some disadvantages to a magnet program.
Separate gifted programs may be great for the child’s academic development but often may lead to greater social struggles. While in a regular classroom or school she has hundreds of kids to make friends with, a magnet program often limits the number of students accepted, thus shrinking the number of possible friends.
Magnet programs are often very separate or segregated from the other classes in a school. Some magnet programs keep the students with the same group of peers throughout all of the early school years. This can make it easier for gifted children to make friends based on familiarity with each other. This is great for classroom closeness, however, it can still cause problems being with the same group of kids for years. If a gifted child doesn’t find a friend or group to fit in with within the first years, often he will never find his place to fit in, leaving him feeling isolated and alone.
Social Struggles With Grade Advancement
Sometimes a gifted child may be skipped a grade level, forcing him to be surrounded by peers older than he. Depending on the child’s social and emotional development, he may find it fits his needs, or he may find it terribly distressing. Gifted children who always seek out older kids to share their interests with may find a classroom of older peers wonderful. However, some children may not be emotionally ready to be surrounded by kids years older than them. Skipping a grade may be great to fit a child’s educational needs, but it may be inappropriate for every gifted child.
Opportunities for Socialization Outside of School
Sometimes no matter what program or school environment a gifted child is placed in, she may still not find friends. This could be true of any student. Sometimes a child must reach out to organizations or programs outside of school to find friendships.
Many gifted kids have various extracurricular interests that can fill their needs socially. There are several organizations such as Boy or Girl Scouts, The Boys and Girls Clubs, or various church groups that any child can be a part of. Some kids can find friendships within their own neighborhood with kids they play with after school.
Some gifted kids with very specific interests may find friendships on a sports team, in a dance class, or on a chess team. There are so many activities and groups available through community organizations or recreation centers which can make the possibilities endless.
Help From Parents and Mentors
Gifted children often need a little help from their parents or teachers to figure things out socially. Friendships can sometimes be established with the help of a concerned teacher or a helpful parent. There may be two separate children who are afraid to make friends and seem lonely in a class. A teacher who pairs the two up for a class project may be helping to create a new friendship. A parent can set up play dates with other kids in the neighborhood to help friendships blossom there.
Sometimes gifted kids can benefit from a little bit of social training. It is an important part of teaching as a parent or a teacher to teach life skills. Kids should be taught how to behave appropriately, be polite, and share. Sometimes a little helpful advice can go a long way to helping a child be accepted socially later.
Gifted kids today don’t have to be isolated, lonely, or appear as nerds. Regardless of their social environment or where they are placed in the educational setting, it is possible to establish lasting friendships. With a little help, these kids can grow up to be successful and happy adults.
- Bainbridge, Carol. About.com. Social and Emotional Problems Affecting Gifted Children (accessed December 14, 2009).
- Porter, Louise, Ph.D. Advocacy for Gifted and Talented Education in New York State. Social Skills of Gifted Children (accessed December 14, 2009).