TALENTED CHILDREN: Needs unmet and the repercussions

There is a group of children that are often overlooked. Mostly because they always seem to have everything under control. This are the talented children. Talented children are those who excel in different areas in their lives. Be it academic excellence, sports or music.

This article is written to enlighten us on some of the needs of the talented children that are often neglected, to help us understand how best to support them, and the kind of limitations they experience due to their talents.

As parents, from when the child is young and we notice that they have a specific gift, we are most likely obliged to enroll them in tutorship so that their skills can be nurtured. Their performance in that area particularly becomes very important to the family as a lot of resources are being invested in them.

We relieve them from other duties in the house so that they can get time to practice, discourage them from spending so much time interacting with some peers as this will distract them from growing their skills.

As much as we are doing this with good intentions, we forget that he or she is still a child who has needs similar to those of other children like social interactions, being loved unconditionally, being given a chance to learn from their mistakes, a chance to grow other skills as their brain neuro-plasticity is still big.

When these occurs the following happens to them:

1. They develop fear of failure.

The fear of failure is brought about by the kind of spotlight they are normally on. Additionally they feel like everyone expects them to perform with excellence. Unless one is taught how to learn from their mistakes, making one brings a lot of guilt and shame to them.

Due to this, they are always on what we call  a shame cycle. Such that the talented children are constantly doing their best to avoid the shame that comes with not living up to their previous status of achievement. So a slight mistake is found to bring him or her a lot of shame.

Especially if their parents have put them on a pedestal, are living vicariously through them where the parents status is  determined by how well they perform in that area. Such that when they make a mistake, the parents tell them things like “you are better than this”, “you are embarrassing us as a family”, “you let us down considering all the money we invested in you” “I expect better from you”.

It is our job as parents to let these children be able to learn that they are loved and valued despite their performance and to allow them to make mistakes and learn from them.

2. Perfectionism.

Most talented children struggle with perfectionism. It is mostly attributed to what I’ve shared above. The perfectionism is because of insecurities caused by the kinds of reactions and comments they get from their teachers and parents when they perform well and when they make mistakes.

When they perform well they tend to get extra attention and praise. This is interpreted by them that they are more valued when they perform well. As a result, they grow up seeking for such kind of a validation.

Best thing would be to show them they are valued whether they perform well or not. By this I mean giving them gifts and praise at times that are not associated with the kind of productivity they have.

When they do perform well, best thing is to move forward based on how they feel about their performance. If they feel proud of it, commend them; if they feel like they would have done better, offer to help where they feel they need your help and still commend them for being honest with themselves.

This kind of treatment builds on their self-esteem and self-confidence. They don’t grow up to be individuals who are constantly seeking for extrinsic validation.

3. Substance abuse

The insecurity results to them heading on to behaviours like substance abuse and other addictive habits as coping mechanisms.

It first it is only meant to dim their performance anxiety but then with time they become dependent on the substance.

4. Not living to their potential

You find that due to all these, these talented children grow up failing to live up to their potential.

Ever heard of parents complain that their son or daughter was the top of their class or very good at this and that but now they are unemployed, living in poor conditions and are deep in dept or substance addiction?

It has a lot to do with his or her needs not being met, being pressured, overlooked and assumed to be okay because they always act okay or they don’t show a need for attention.

They mostly assume the “hero role” in the family. Such that everyone seems to be relying on them. The siblings, the parents, the community. Forgetting that they are also our children and they need to be taken care of or they will experience issues of neglect and abandonment.

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