The Parent's Role In Counselling The Gifted: The Balance Between Home And School

Techniques For Parents

The following points may be useful for parents to keep in mind as they actively participate in the counselling and guidance role with their gifted child or children. While it can be said that no two gifted children are alike, general principles do seem to apply in this area, particularly, when children are young.

  1. Be alert to spontaneous expressions of interest in the environment. Provide additional opportunities to acquire knowledge and experience in these areas. Encourage self-initiated exploration of the environment, materials, and activities available while providing sufficient safeguards to prevent injury.
  2. Talk to your child as you care for him or her; carry the young child about and cuddle him or her. Use your regular vocabulary and talk about what you are doing (e.g., preparing food, bathing, dressing, going for the mail, etc).
  3. Expose the child to music, art objects, and reading. Provide a variety of materials (e.g., classical music as well as nursery rhymes). Note the child's preferences and involve the child in decisions early by offering a choice between or among acceptable alternatives (e.g., the blue or red shirt; a cracker or toast; a bath before or after dinner).
  4. Talk about the properties or attributes of objects - colour, size, shape, utility, texture, etc - and encourage the child to note similarities and differences.
  5. Be sensitive to the child's moods, degree of well-being (e.g., fatigue, illness, overstimulation, etc.) and allow for lapses in performance levels without being critical.
  6. Encourage your child's sense of playfulness and the ridiculous as well as interest in innovation and inventiveness. Select toys that lend themselves to multiple uses but don't underestimate your child's ability for adapting common toys or objects to uncommon application.
  7. Broaden the child's personal, social, physical and learning environment through activities which take into account physical, social, and intellectual development. Don't underestimate his or her ability to profit from activities which might not normally be associated with chronological age. Let the child set the pace. First experiences may need to be largely observational with the degree of active participation increasing as the child's confidence and interest are aroused. As a rule, parental involvement in the form of encouragement, equipment, and special lessons should be geared to the degree of interest the child demonstrates. Encouragement and support of the child's demonstrated interest will nurture the development of self-initiated activities, confidence, and self-reliance.
  8. Encourage the development of self-help skills, acceptance of responsibility, and the ability to follow through on activities. The child should quickly be involved with and become responsible for putting away any toys and clothing, for dressing and toilet activities, and for assisting other family members in the routines of daily living.
  9. Be attentive to the development of good listening and communication skills. Actively listen to your child and encourage expression of thoughts and feelings both verbally and non-verbally. The tiny toddler with limited language can still graphically relate the experience of watching daddy's plane land at the airport or the duck feeding in a pond or even the sad tale of a bird flying into a picture window - complete with appropriate facial expressions and sound effects.
  10. Encourage your child's sensitivity to and sympathy for the needs of others. Gifted children tend to be unusually aware of the feelings of others and often seem to share the intensity of the pain or joy the other is experiencing. Since this can be a traumatic event, it is important that the child be encouraged to cope with empathetic feelings in a constructive way.
  11. Assist and encourage your child's special interests to the degree that the family is compatible in doing so, including such sacrifices as are willingly made. Do not feel however, that the gifted child's interests and wishes should take precedence over all other family members and their needs.
  12. Encourage your child to be self-reliant and resourceful. The gifted child can readily become his or her own best advocate in the community. Help the child early to become acquainted with community resources such as libraries, museums and other educational and vocational resources, transportation and communication networks. Provide opportunities for mastering the skills which facilitate access to and use of such resources. Also assist your child in becoming aware of human resources and encourage him or her to seek out others who can share special interests and/or who have the expertise to further the child's development.
  13. Encourage the development of the child's natural bent for moral, ethical behaviour and for community service. Gifted children usually display an intense interest in fair play and resent the unequal treatment of their peers or themselves. They also show an interest in learning which extends to the learning of others. Thus, they often make natural tutors and derive enjoyment from activities which offer little challenge to them as individuals but provide the opportunity for them to assist children younger or less able then themselves. They also readily understand philanthropic activities at an early age and get much satisfaction out of participation in community projects.

From: Arlene Munger - Chapter 4 in Practical Guide to Counselling the Gifted in a School Setting J. Van Tassel-Baska (ed) 1983. QAGTC inc. 1994.

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