Taking Care of Ourselves
By Marylou Kelly Streznewski
The importance of
self-aware gifted adults in the lives of gifted children
are also the places where adults are working out their lives. And since
it is the adults who are in charge in these areas; who set the tone,
choose the content and make the rules, their well-being is a crucial
factor in the well-being of their charges.
the greatest assets a gifted child can have is to be parented and
educated by self-aware gifted adults.
actuality, all of these are areas which impact the lives of gifted
children, but parenting and teaching are of primary concern.
tension and conflict around this question is often painfully obvious in
their faces, their voices and their body language. In talking to parent
groups, I have encountered this same kind of denial.
also been confirmed by teachers in other gifted programs. If men and
women are to be the best parents for their gifted offspring, they must
be able to deal with their own issues as gifted adults.
much better for a family to be able to see that they are a dynamically
interacting collection of high-powered individuals who can share both
the pleasures and the problems of dealing with a world which does not
always understand them.
if she moves confidently beyond denial or lack of awareness of her
gifts, a modern wife and mother is constantly challenged by personal
and career responsibilities.
Nature has decreed that the healthiest children are born to mothers in
their twenties. The male patterns of corporate society push women into
their thirties and even forties to have children, a long-term
disadvantage to women’s and children’s health, not to mention health
insurance and child care costs.
woman deeply involved in these challenges may be parenting one or more
of your students, or facing you across the desk at a difficult parent
conference. That woman may also be yourself.
two accomplished authors of Answers to the Mommy Track (1993) put it
quite bluntly, “If we want educated and well trained women to have
children in this society, then we must support the needs of there women
and their husbands to take care of training, developing and educating
can help children by understanding the challenges faced by their
parents, especially their
in an environment where school and home treated her as a troublesome
nuisance, she stumbled her way through 37 years before the light
dawned, courtesy of an enlightened teacher. She marveled, “It was like
being released after being locked in a closet!
had viewed as abnormality all my life was competence!” Although she was
successful in the career world, Adrian decided to devote full time to
raising her three gifted children. Needless to say, she is an avid
volunteer at her children’s school.
may ask for more work and make enemies. They have odd approaches to
things, and that can threaten the boss, if the odd approach turns out
to be the better idea.
back as 1981, industrial psychologist David Willings said, “Job
performance is not a significant factor in promotability. Social
acceptability, the ability to fit in, to think as the rest of
management thinks; these are the factors which make a person
promotable. The gifted employee is not readily promotable.
idea that the gifted will get ahead anyway, and if they do not, they
were not really gifted, has no basis in fact.”
society where most men still feel that they must be the rock which
supports the family, a gifted father who is trying to make sense of
where he fits into the job market may be greatly helped by a handout
explaining some of this.
is important work because, like Adrian, many adults are unaware that
they and their challenging children have much in common.
addition, the parents with whom we are dealing ( and we ourselves) may
be struggling to cope with a workplace which does not meet their needs,
and are carrying that tension home to their already high energy family.
they may need to be helped to see that each of these characteristics of
gifted people may apply differently to each member of the family!
interactions run the gamut from hilarious to painful, but a family
whose members can see themselves as part of a dynamic group can work
together to make provisions for each other’s varied needs. Heightened
sensitivity levels can be understood and provided for by special quiet
times or quiet spaces within the household.
open discussion of the problems of getting along in the world which
does not always understand can be a safety valve, an expression of love
and support and a means to share coping skills – for adults as well as
openly involved in each other’s lives can allow parents to assist a
college student in changing majors. Children can pitch in to help a
mother who needs to return to work or school, or grow in other ways.
working together, a family group can agree to a more modest lifestyle
so that a father can return to school, or take the risk of launching a
new career. Blunt but loving criticism can help a “scattered” person of
any age to regain essential balance.
extreme attitude toward giftedness is a danger which a family group can
help each other to avoid. "Pit“ the poor gifted," will solve no
problems; nor will "I'm gifted so the rules don't apply to me," create
a better life for one's children.
together for balance as full persons can create an atmosphere where
talents will not be hidden and feelings of isolation can be relieved.
all members find both shelter and recognition within this space? Can
Father come home and complain that no one understands him at work?
Mother is pursuing her own career, does she receive the support, both
practical and emotional, which working mothers need? Can a child who is
feeling isolated in school share those frustrations at the dinner
grandparent freely express frustration at not being taken seriously or
and if they meet those educators who can give them what they need, they
will be equipped to respond. And when and if they become parents and/or
teachers, they will be equipped to pass it on.
these persons are fortunate enough to be working in progressive
programs, they may be sufficiently stimulated and challenged even while
enduring the stress of keeping such programs alive in these
out to colleagues who may be enduring health-damaging frustration is an
important task of which we should be ever mindful, for the sake of all
extra patience to a quirky colleague who is just trying to work out his
or her own gifted existence can benefit that person, and in the long
run, the children in his or her care.
own case, taking the knowledge I gained in writing Gifted Grownups and
applying it to myself has proved very helpful.
same held true for my penchant for hatching creative projects which
would require daunting amounts of extra work from already over-burdened
learned that I had to choose when and how to speak out; when to realize
that I was “over-muching it,” and should re-think my ideas and present
them in a form more likely to be accepted.
had to be found for the surging energy of the eleventh grader who had
used up high school, was not ready socially for college, and cried
because she wanted to “try everything!”
frustration with choosing options was no different. I had to
realize that my oldest daughter, even as an adult, needs sympathy as
she agonizes over the world’s problems; I too, get wound up in the
the 6-ring circus of our family of four children and two gifted
grownups, space had to be found for a husband who needed quiet solitary
time to think about higher mathematics and for myself, who needed time
to write a book. Easing our own tensions could ease the tension level
in our family.
opinion, working toward this balance, as a teacher, a parent or a
spouse, is the most difficult task a gifted grownup must perform. It
may also be among the most important work we do.
degree that we work to cultivate healthy self-awareness in ourselves
and those we encounter, we have begun to provide healthy places
for the growth of the children in our care.
they are doing all of this, they will also become the parents and
the teachers with whom we interact in crafting the educational progress
of a gifted child.
conducting hundreds of hours of interviews and in meeting gifted adults
since the publication of Gifted Grownups, I have come to the firm
conclusion that one of the major ways we can ensure the emotional and
social welfare of our students is to seriously take up the work of
recognizing these gifted grownups and using our professional expertise
to help them to recognize themselves.
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