Anxiety and Parenting a Gifted Child

We all want our kids to meet their potential. The problem is when you know your child has SO much potential the pressure is tremendous to be sure you’re doing the right thing. All parents worry and have anxiety over their kids but I’m not sure it’s over the same issues as parents of gifted kids. I don’t know, maybe it is. I’ve only got the one gifted daughter and she consumes almost all of my dedicated anxiety resources. Almost. Anxiety and Parenting a Gifted Child

When I set my anxiety about my daughter aside I find I start worrying about what’s happening to ALL children and how we should ALL care about them.

I worry about the special needs kids. Unidentified gifted kids. Bullied kids. Foster care kids. Kids in poverty. Kids growing up in abusive families. Kids without enough to eat. Kids without enough to read.

But most of my time is spent fixated on my own kid.

My bouts of anxiety tend to start out as worrying about just one thing and then like kudzu, the worry spreads to nearly every aspect of my life. I’ve described it as having at least two soundtracks playing in my head nearly all the time.

Anxiety About Her Education

Track 1
All she ever says is “school is fine” but is that true? What does ‘fine’ mean? Does that mean she really is challenged or she’s just enjoying reading Harry Potter for the 72nd time and she prefers it that way? Is that the way her teacher prefers it, too?

How can I blame her? This quarter they’re studying Island of the Blue Dolphins which she read three years ago. One whole quarter dedicated to one book? Is that normal? Even if it was a new book she doesn’t need to have weeks to read and complete a study of it. Next quarter is Gathering Blue. Read it two years ago. If the teacher is ok with her plowing the same ground twice should I be ok with Harry Potter 72 times?

Track 2
I should limit how much she reads and steer her away from books covered in the school lessons. What the heck am I saying?? I’m NOT going to limit her reading! What is this crazy person in my head talking about?!

Track 1
Should I remind the teacher (again) that to be differentiating curriculum? Is this a battle I should fight? Will this help win the war of providing academic challenge? It feels like the school is waging a war of attrition and they might be winning.

Good grief! She’s read Harry Potter 72 times! Need to talk with the librarian (again) about recommending new books for her. I need to do a better job making sure she has better (different and new to her) reading material for home and for when she’s done with work at school. Would it kill the child to throw a non-fiction book in her backpack?

Where are those Amazon gift cards from Christmas?

Track 2
That 6th grade boy at the Quiz Bowl last weekend rocked the literature questions! He knew Jane Austen better than I did! Is she ready for Pride & Prejudice? Will she like it after the excitement of Hunger Games? Shoot, why did I let her read that? What other classics should she be reading now? Have to figure out how to present Dickens as being just as captivating as Rick Riordan. I like Dickens better – why doesn’t she? Stop. It.

Must let her develop her own tastes. Even when they might be wrong. No, stop that!

Track 1
But wait, her old Kindle is broken (was broken, now destroyed – see photo at right) and I don’t want her to read at night on her iPad because of the whole backlit Kindle destroyedscreen keeps you awake issue. Why didn’t I get the new one set up over the weekend? Oh yeah, spelling bee and quiz bowl tournament. And that full day of recovery. I totally needed that. Do you think Facebook friends are tired of seeing her with her trophy? Too bad!

Track 2
Is she getting enough sleep? Is it time to make her bedtime later? What are other parents doing? Am I treating her like a baby because bedtime is officially 8:00? She does get to read until 8:30 – but not on the iPad (get Kindle setup already!) and she’s usually asleep before then. She’s growing up way to fast. Need to start plotting out family vacations from now until she graduates. We never should have grade skipped her – that’s one whole year gone! What if she needs an additional grade acceleration? No way. I can’t do it. Surely, we can figure something else out, right?

Track 1
Of course she could read actual books but she’s read everything on her bookshelf. Wee need to go the library AGAIN. I wish they had better hours – why do they close so early on the weekends? Seriously, 5:00 p.m. on Saturday? I guess we (I) need to work on our weekend excitement strategy because lounging at the library isn’t happening.

Ok, new Kindle finally charged and books downloaded including Lord of the Flies which she’s been asking about. Hope Piggy can compete with Katniss.

Track 2

Yes, yes, I did. That little burst of anxiety (abject fear) probably took years off my life. Punishment for reading that crap in the first place.

Track 1
We just need to get through the last quarter of this school year and then things will get better, right? Because we should know in a few weeks if she gets into the amazing gifted school. An hour away. Test scores (were the WISC and SB both necessary??) are way above where she needs to be and now we’re just waiting for the personal interview. Will she make it through that phase? Sure she will. Right?

Track 2
Why wouldn’t they want her in the program? She’s a well-adjusted kid, social, and gosh darn it, people like her! I’ve now started to channel Stuart Smalley and that can’t be good.

But what if she can’t stop talking about Minecraft? Worse, what if she starts talking about watching Minecraft videos on YouTube? Why can’t I be one of those parents who ban the Internet – or at least StampyCat videos? Must revisit parental controls. I kind of hate Minecraft even though I know the kids are learning to create and it’s like virtual Legos…blah, blah, blah. I hate hearing about it. All. The. Time. Especially when she wants to give me details just as she’s getting out of the car in the school drop-off line. I’m becoming the parent that slows things down because of Minecraft. I try to at least appear interested as she describes the latest Redstone thing and why she decided to kill the sheep. Why would anyone want to kill sheep?

What if she doesn’t talk at all? What if she fidgets the whole way though the interview? Like the chair dancing sequence during the spelling bee. Thank goodness no one had a video camera. Shoot, I probably should have taken a video or at least pictures with a real camera instead of phone. Why can’t I be like all those super organized Pinterest moms? Must remember to download photos from phone.

Track 1
What if she gets in and the amazing program really isn’t so amazing? What if she can’t keep up with the work? What if we’re too late and she doesn’t have a growth mindset? She’s been coasting academically and racking up meaningless straight A’s for much too long. What if she crumbles at actually being challenged?

I’m trying so hard not to praise her results and instead focus on her effort but, dang – it’s HARD.

Track 2
Where’s that book on grit? Probably deleted along with Fifty Shades of Gray. Paging Angela Duckworth!

Track 1
What if she doesn’t get in? Do we continue banging up against this school district’s unwillingness to meet her academic needs? Should we be satisfied with a weekly pullout program where she still doesn’t have true peers. Would the parochial school do a better job? Would they be more apt to subject accelerate? The principal says yes but I’ve been fooled before. What about online schools? Homeschooling? Unschooling?

Track 2
I am NOT brave enough or organized enough for homeschooling. Seriously, how the heck do those moms do it? And unschooling – that just terrifies me. It terrifies me in a way that I think I might just like it.

I just need to man up. Wait, maybe I should say put on my big-girl pants. Whoa, neither of those sounds very PC for a girl-mom. Sheesh, that whole being a good role model thing really escapes me. Parenting fail.

Track 1
Maybe we can keep her challenged with enrichment programs. We’ve done EPGY in the past and IMACS last fall. Shoot, why aren’t we doing that again this spring? Because of that awful hour each way commute on Saturday mornings. And if we did do that she couldn’t compete on the Quiz Bowl teach which she loves. I hate scheduling. I must schedule time to figure out Evernote, maybe that will get me on track.

The Duke Tip online classes look good. Can she do those on her iPad or the Chromebook or do I have to share my laptop? I don’t want to share.

Maybe find a chess club and she can polish her skills. Maybe I should learn to play chess. How embarrassing that I don’t know how to play chess. Parenting fail. Again. There are excellent summer camps around here, that will help.

Track 2
CRAP! I haven’t signed her up for any summer camps yet! Ironic because I’ve been thinking about this since January and even compiled a list of more than 500 camps for gifted kids. Did I just use ironic correctly? I really have zero idea…

The summer camps sound incredible. And last summer my kid went to a ‘summer camp’ at a gymnasium where she go to jump on trampolines, play in ball pits and walk to the public pool.

The guilt from that is nearly overpowering.

Track 1
But I can’t sign her up for camp yet because if she does get into that amazing (hopefully amazing) gifted program then we’ll have to move. If we move, that’s going to keep us busy and eat up a lot of resources. And then I have to break it to her that she’ll be starting a new school for the second year in a row.

And now the anxiety REALLY kicks in.

Track 2
Aaaargh – I’m late picking her up from school!

Please tell me I’m not the only one suffering silent bouts of anxiety!

This post is part of Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop: Anxiety.

To see all the blogs writing about Anxiety click the button below.

Anxiety - The Pain of Potential


Thinking of Grade Acceleration? 8 Things to Consider

One Tool to Provide Academic Challenge

Grade acceleration. Skipping a grade. Double Promotion. They all mean the same thing – accelerated learning for your child. When you have gifted student the thought of moving them up a grade inevitably crosses your mind.Grade Acceleration

It was an article in the New York Times by Jessica Lahey (who I’ve come to have great respect for) against grade acceleration that prompted me to start blogging. At the time I was very sensitive about the decision and needed to well, vent.

I didn’t really know anyone who could give me a clues on what to expect or what I should look out for. I hope you can benefit from our experiences.

My daughter went from kindergarten directly to 2nd grade. It was the best decision at the time and I stand by it.

However, it wasn’t the first choice. First choice would be for her to be in a classroom with intellectual peers who were the same age. She did attend, and still does, a one day a week pull-out gifted program but it wasn’t, and still isn’t, enough. So we went with grade acceleration.

  1. Just because you think your child should be grade skipped doesn’t necessarily make it so. Yep, I said it. The decision shouldn’t be subjective and it doesn’t need to be. The Iowa Acceleration Scale: A Guide for Whole-Grade Acceleration K-8 is an invaluable tool for evaluating students. If your school isn’t using it, they should be. The scale takes into consideration everything from IQ scores to maturity levels to height. Fair warning, it also asks if the child is in favor of the move. If the student isn’t, the grade skip won’t be successful. Every topic is weighted and it includes the research as to why – or why not – grade acceleration is right for your student. This was used for my daughter’s grade acceleration and I can’t recommend it enough.
  2. Kids aren’t always nice. You probably already know this but it’s still a shock to the system. The kids in her new class knew she wasn’t supposed to be in 2nd grade and let her know she wasn’t welcome. One boy told her only stupid people didn’t get to go to 1st grade. Bless his heart. Needless to say there was no kiddie welcome wagon but she did make friends. Give it some time.
  3. The right teacher can make the difference in success. You probably already know this, too. Skipping a grade can put your child in a potentially hostile situation (see above). Luckily, our daughter had already been going to her new teacher as a kindergartener for a 2nd grade reading group so the transition was easier than it might have been. The teacher helped smooth the social side of things by having her assigned as an ambassador to help new kids to the school learn the ropes. Giving her additional responsibilities helped her feel as though she really did belong in the classroom.
  4. Gaps in knowledge. The administrators and teachers toss this term around as a reason not to grade accelerate. They point out that the student won’t know everything they’re supposed to because of the missed classroom time and they’ll automatically be behind the rest of the class. The only gap the 2nd grade teacher found in my daughter’s knowledge was the edit/revision process in writing. She managed to close that gap with a three-minute discussion. Granted, it might differ depending on which grade is bypassed but I don’t think this is a significant factor in the decision making because most teachers underestimate how quickly gifted students acquire and master concepts.
  5. They aren’t the smartest kid in class anymore. It could happen. More than likely there will be new challenges and they may not be at the top of the class. Particularly true if you pursue radical acceleration (skipping more than one grade level) or radical subject acceleration. How will this affect their self-esteem? Hopefully their sense of worth isn’t tied to grades. If it is, work on changing that. It’s not a good place for any child to be.
  6. They are the smartest kid in the class. Yeah, that happens with these kids. Grade acceleration won’t fix everything. That can be disappointing because it’s usually a tough battle just to get the accommodation. You hope that it’ll be smooth sailing from then on. But if your child is working several years ahead moving up one grade isn’t a magic bullet. It’s part of the solution – not THE solution. Think of it as one tool, out of many, that you and the school can use in building your child’s learning plan.
  7. Maturity matters. Of course you want to set your child up for success, not failure. If they don’t have the maturity to accept challenges, make new friends, and maybe struggle with unfamiliar material then you need to think long and hard if grade acceleration is the right step to take at this time. Perhaps focusing on subject acceleration would be a better fit. Take each year, or each semester, as they come.
  8. What’s your end-game plan? Grade acceleration in elementary school can seem like a no-brainer. It did to us. And just like that we lost a year. My daughter is on track to graduate high-school at least one year early. If she does curriculum compacting or another grade skip that could be even earlier. Will she be ready for college at such a young age? Maybe, maybe not. Will I be ready to let her go? Maybe, maybe not. Will her dad? Definitely not. There are alternatives to early graduation if that’s not the right path for your child. Bottom line, you do need to give that long view some thought.

Grade acceleration has worked for my daughter and she’s nearing the end of 5th grade. I’ll keep you updated.

What’s been your experience, positive or negative, with grade acceleration?

Ten Things I Want My Gifted Daughter to Know

She’s getting ready to turn 10. It’s a milestone and those don’t come around as often as when they’re little. No more first steps or first words to celebrate.

Now the milestones slip by almost unnoticed.

Like when I saw her not be annoyed by the little kid but she took the time to play with her. She  showed patience and took joy in having someone look up to her. My heart sang.

Like when she prioritized her homework and violin practice for the week without being reminded (harangued) I could see the responsible young woman she’s becoming. My heart swelled with pride.

10 Things I want my gifted daughter to know

Raising daughters isn’t easy. That said, raising my gifted daughter has been the greatest challenge and greatest joy of my life.

I Want You to Know

  1. Gifted is just a label. It defines you no more than your eye color does. In the grand scheme of life no one cares about it. It’s what you do and how you treat others that matters.
  2. That gifted label does mean you’ve got potential. Oodles of potential. It doesn’t guarantee anything. So dream BIG. All that potential means you’ve got the stuff to achieve just about anything you want. But only you can realize that potential. I can help you. But the work is hard and you’re the one that has to do it. Dream BIG – the hard work is worth it.
  3. Grades matter – and they don’t. Sorry, life is full of gray areas and ambiguities. Start getting used to it. Grades and test scores are a way of demonstrating what you know. To get where you want to be, wherever that is, you’ll have to show you have the right to be there. Keep the long game in mind and that may mean working for good grades. Or not.
  4. Age doesn’t matter. I know you don’t remember the meltdown you had at age 4 when you discovered that the Monopoly game was for ages 8 and up and that meant you had to stop playing. Such a literal little girl! Age didn’t matter then. It didn’t matter when you skipped a grade. It didn’t matter when you were the youngest in the robotics class. It won’t matter until you want to drive, vote, or have a drink. Until then, forget it.
  5. Friends are important. Make friends with people who fill you with energy and happiness. Spend time with people who challenge you and encourage you to be your best self. Don’t worry about popularity or who’s in the “in” crowd. Popularity doesn’t last, I promise it doesn’t. Good friends are forever.
  6. Be kind. You can always be kind. Even when you don’t want to be (it’s ok, we all feel that way sometimes) just take a deep breath and choose kindness. It’ll pay off in ways you’ll never begin to imagine and you’ll feel better about yourself and the world. Trust me.
  7. Being smart is cool. Seriously, it is so freaking awesome. Don’t let anyone tell you differently or try and make you believe it’s not. If they do, they’re the ones with the problem. Walk away and don’t look back. They’re not worth your time.
  8. Know what else is cool? Confidence. I see it on your face more and more often as you grow up. It makes you more beautiful than you can imagine. Confidence + smarts + kindness = an unbeatable combination. Work it.
  9. Whatever is troubling you probably happened to someone else before. It’s probably happened to me. Maybe your dad. Or your aunt or grandma. Don’t keep it inside, we can and want to help. All burdens become lighter when shared.
  10. You have no bigger supporter than me, except maybe your dad. I’ve fought for you your entire life and will continue to do so – but only when I really need to. That may mean convincing the school librarian that you can check out books beyond your age range (see #4 above) or it may mean that I fight you on screen time.The goal is to teach you how to stand up and advocate for yourself. I want you to find your own voice so you can unabashedly follow your dreams. Your BIG dreams.

The Most Important Thing

Doesn’t matter if you graduate from Harvard or flunk out of high school. I love you.

Doesn’t matter what your dress size is, what color your hair is or what you have pierced. I love you.

Doesn’t matter what you become or what you do. I love you.

To paraphrase the great Snape – Always.


What things do you want to share with your daughter – or son – as they enter the tween years?

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